July 30, 2020 / 8:00 PM / 8 days ago

FACTBOX-High-frequency data sources for tracking the U.S. pandemic economy

NEW YORK, July 30 (Reuters) - Policymakers, economists and investors are turning increasingly to so-called high-frequency data to get a more timely snapshot of the U.S. economy during the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic than traditional monthly and quarterly indicators can provide.

These run the gamut from long-established government reports such as the Labor Department’s weekly unemployment benefits figures to new privately sourced analyses of retail foot traffic from mobile phone tracking data and shifts worked at small business derived from payroll service providers.

After showing improvement in activity in May and early June, many of these now show signs of a stalling recovery from the recession triggered by COVID-19 starting in February.

James Marple, senior economist at TD Economics, said: “Recently, as we’re looking to the economy reopening, there are some signs that the upsurge in cases in several states is leading to a bit of a slowdown in activity.”

Here are some of the sources:

* The U.S. Department of Labor's Weekly Jobless Claims here report, published every Thursday morning, has long been viewed as the most timely official data on the state of U.S. employment.

* Alternative views on what's happening with employment are available from time management firms Homebase joinhomebase.com/data and Kronos here which shed light on information such as the number of workers on the job and numbers of shifts worked.

* Mobility reports from Alphabet Inc's Google here and Apple www.apple.com/covid19/mobility Inc show how much people are moving around in different communities as lockdowns ease or are reimposed.

* Data analytics firms Unacast here and Safegraph here offer even more granular information on foot traffic at retailers and other commercial destinations.

* The restaurant booking site OpenTable here also offers a view of activity at restaurants.

* For keeping track of trends on travel, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides Checkpoint travel numbers here

* A number of the 12 regional banks in the Federal Reserve system have devised activity indexes of their own. The New York Fed, for instance, uses 10 different data series ranging from weekly jobless claims to steel production to produce its own Weekly Economic Index here

* Opportunity Insights’ Economic Tracker https://www.tracktherecovery.org, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Brown University, combines anonymized data from private companies, including credit card processors and payroll firms, to provide a real-time picture of employment rates, consumer spending, and job postings across counties, industries, and income groups.

* A number of investment and economic research firms have formulated their own activity indexes. The Oxford Economics Recovery Tracker here for example, takes into account financial conditions and health metrics as well as indicators of employment and demand.

* For insight on the spread of COVID-19 itself, John Hopkins University's Tracking Project coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map keeps tabs on daily U.S. county-level data on testing, population, infection rate, and hospital capacity.

* And the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Protect Public Data Hub https://protect-public.hhs.gov provides COVID-19 information from non-government datasets collected by academia, non-profit organizations, industry, hospitals, and facilities reporting from all 50 states and territories. (Reporting by John McCrank; Additional reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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