Weekly economic indicators point to a stagnating recovery in activity

The ongoing resumption of economic activities shows more signs of stagnation as weeks go by, with occasional intermittent improvements.

Fewer people are reporting to work, and emissions data also suggest economic activity is limited. Business Standard tracks Google’s mobility reports which uses location data for identifying workplace visits, as well as to other places. Pollution data is tracked as a proxy for industrial activity, as are other high frequency indicators like traffic, power and freight data. Google’s data appears as of 4th August. All other data is as of Sunday.

Analysts track such indicators globally to get an idea of the fast-changing situation on the ground during Covid-19. Lockdowns have affected economies across nations. Indicators like trade and gross domestic product (GDP) numbers are only available monthly or quarterly, and are delayed. Tracking higher frequency data gives a more current sense of how the economy is faring.

Mumbai’s emissions of nitrogen dioxide are almost non-existent, based on Bandra area data. The emissions come from vehicles or industrial activity. The low levels would suggest that activity has dropped after picking up earlier. Heavy rains during the previous week may have played a part.

But the trend has been flat for some time.

Delhi had begun to see a rise in emissions. It had reached almost 90 per cent of the 2019 levels. This has fallen closer to 75 per cent on a seven-day rolling average basis. Pollution data for both cities is as of Sunday.

Traffic data from location technology firm TomTom International shows improvement in Mumbai. New Delhi traffic is closer to normal shows data for the week ending Sunday. Only a third of the normal traffic is missing, compared to 60 per cent for Mumbai.

Search engine giant Google tracks people based on their location too. This is used to categories where they are going. Workplace visits are lower than before shows a seven-day rolling average period ending 4th August. Other categories show small variations from the previous week.

The Indian Railways carried 6.37 per cent more goods for the week ending Sunday, compared to the same period last year. This is in line with what was seen in the previous week. Earnings from freight also show signs of recovery.

Power generation numbers had seen significant dip as companies and offices shut down towards the end of March. There was more power generated for the week ending Sunday, than was the case for the same period last year.