Consumers Are Coming Back, But it’s not all Good News

Judging by retail traffic numbers, Americans were sick and tired of all the economic restrictions by Labor Day Weekend.  We set a post-pandemic high in foot traffic, matching levels from March 1, just before we went into lock down.  We also posted great numbers for seated dining.  Restaurant booking website OpenTable reported that the number of seated diners this year was just 14% below that of Labor Day last year, which is quite a victory when you consider all the restrictions in place.  It’s also not clear if they were counting the number of patrons, or the number of patrons at businesses still open.  Either way, this is good news.

Unacast, which tracks retail traffic, showed that traffic had returned to year-ago levels in a pandemic-era record 33 states.

The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow model shows third-quarter GDP growth of 30.8%.  That won’t get us back to even on the year, but it’s better than they expected just a month ago.

All of that was the good news.

On the down side, we’re achieving all of this while we still have 29.3 milllion workers filing for continuing unemployment benefits, and another 1.3 million filing for first-time, or initial, benefits.  That’s not good.  It looks like businesses are adapting, finding ways to operate with fewer people.  While that will keep their businesses alive and hopefully allow them to thrive as we ease more restrictions, it won’t do much for people who find themselves among the long-term unemployed.

We’re not back to normal, not by a long shot, even though we’re finally able to eat in restaurants.

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  1. Richard Hennessy

    Consumers will not freely shop until they can do so without wearing masks. Until then, they will do so only when they feel a particular motivation to shop, eat in a restaurant, etc. The level of shopping is more likely to generally plateau then to continue to rise, until masks go away.

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