U.S. retail foot traffic rebounds, more staff at work, as lockdowns ease – Metro US

U.S. retail foot traffic rebounds, more staff at work, as lockdowns ease

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers enter a grocery store near a sign
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers enter a grocery store near a sign requesting social distancing, following reports of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the area, in Seattle

(Reuters) – Retail foot traffic recovered to approach pre-lockdown levels last week and businesses appeared to bring more employees back to the job, according to data from firms that collect cellphone location information and manage employee time for companies.

Broader macroeconomic measures pointed to some improvement as well, with a Goldman Sachs’ tracker of industrial activity moving higher and the Atlanta Fed’s running estimate of second-quarter gross domestic product also increasing from a deep low.

(GRAPHIC – The U.S. reopening – inline: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/yxmvjoxakpr/eikon.png)

Cellphone data from Unacast showed foot traffic at retail locations as of last Saturday was just 10% below the level of a year earlier. Similar foot traffic estimates from Safegraph were over 90% of what they were on March 1, before a national state of emergency was declared and widespread lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Data from time management firms Homebase and Kronos both pointed to more employees at work last week from a week earlier.

That’s consistent with a steady decline in weekly new unemployment claims, which fell to 1.5 million this week versus 1.56 the week before.

Still, the decline in new filings – 58,000 – was the smallest since early April and far fewer than the 242,000 forecast of economists in a Reuters poll.

Moreover, some 20.5 million continued to file weekly unemployment claims, a sign of slow progress in the recovery ofthe U.S. labor market.

Measures meant to capture a more general picture of the U.S. economy also point to a patchy recovery. A Goldman Sachs’ tracker of industrial activity rose, and is now just 12% below the year-ago level, compared to 20% as of mid-April. By contrast a Goldman measure of consumer activities, weighted towards things like hotel stays and movie ticket sales that may be among the last to recover, remained stalled at -70%.

Unacast https://www.unacast.com/covid19/covid-19-retail-impact-scoreboard, Homebase https://joinhomebase.com/data/covid-19, Safegraph https://www.safegraph.com/dashboard, Kronos https://www.kronos.com/about-us/newsroom/update-us-workforce-activity, NYFed https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/policy/weekly-economic-index, ATLFed https://www.frbatlanta.org/cqer/research/gdpnow

(GRAPHIC – Hitting bottom: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/editorcharts/qzjvqweavxm/eikon.png)

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Dan Burns and Bernadette Baum)