Economic data for states and metropolitan areas are released by the Federal government with a lag of one month to two quarters. So, business economists are always hunting for more high frequency, reliable, cutting-edge indicators. Below are three sources of economic data currently popular, having daily or weekly numbers available.
What do these data sources say about the current state of Delaware's COVID economy?
Homebase: Homebase is a free scheduling and time tracking tool used by 100,000+ local businesses and their hourly employees. Homebase weekly compiles data by state and metropolitan area on the number of employees working, the volume of hours worked by employees, and the number of businesses open. Free data available through August 5th shows that compared to the same day in January 2020 that the number of employees working in Delaware is down 5% compared to down 10% in Maryland, 15% in New Jersey, and 16% in Pennsylvania.
Opportunity Insights: Researchers from Harvard and Brown universities collect and solicit timely data from a wide variety of sources. Their "Economic Tracker" system follows items such as employment and consumer spending on a state level and provides subcategories by income and industry.
Employment data is from Paychex, Intuit, and Earnin. From January of 2020 through the middle of July, Delaware's employment has decreased 3.2%. Unfortunately, employment has decreased most substantially for low income workers (11.7%), less for middle income workers (2.3%), and increased for workers making more than $60,000 (3.5%).
Total consumer spending is estimated by data from credit and debit cards. For Delaware from January 2020 through August 30th, total consumer spending was down 1.3%. As seen in the chart, the drop in total consumer spending over the same time period was much greater in New Jersey (9.0%) and Maryland (5.5%), with Pennsylvania experiencing a 2.7% increase-see Chart 1-1 below.
By Delaware industry, the largest drop in consumer spending was experienced in recreation and entertainment (53.8%), followed by restaurants and hotels (28.5%) and healthcare (14.3%). Simultaneously, spending on groceries in Delaware climbed 18.2%. This same pattern was repeated in the states surrounding Delaware.
Redfin: As a real estate brokerage, Redfin has direct access to data from local multi-listing services as well as from their own agents. Data on median sales price, new listings, and median days on the market are available weekly for most metropolitan areas in the U.S. For Delaware, for example, the index for the number of new four-week listings dipped in March 2020 through May 2020, but by August exceeded the index for the same months in 2019 and 2018. A strong housing market.
In absolute terms, data from nontraditional sources may have a wider range of error than data from the U.S. Census and Bureau of Economic Research, but the trends can be confirmation of the direction of a state or local economy. Such data serves as an early warning system for the Federal data to be published later.