Data Gaps May Complicate Measurement of Shutdown Consequences

Data Gaps May Complicate Measurement of Shutdown Consequences

Data Gaps May Complicate Measurement of Shutdown Consequences

Regions Economic Preview, April 13, 2020

Lag-times in the official calculation of unemployment rates likely mean the full impact of COVID-related job losses won’t show up in Bureau of Labor Statistics reports until the April employment figures are released in May. But the government’s survey-based methodology likely means gauging the fallout will get even hazier, according to Rick Moody, chief economist at Regions Bank. “With so many establishments having shut down, collection rates will be abnormally low, leaving potentially large gaps in the survey data that will have to be filled in, thus raising questions about the quality of the data, and potentially exaggerating what already figured to be an unusually high degree of volatility in the month-to-month changes.” He expects March retail sales to register a 9.1% decline, given the collapse in demand for cars and other big-ticket items. Measuring the state of the nation’s service economy will have to wait a few weeks. “Spending on services had largely dried up by the end of March, but it will not be until April 30, when the Bureau of Economic Analysis releases comprehensive data on consumer spending, that we have a more complete view,” Moody says.

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