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A surge in restaurant spending appears to predict a surge in coronavirus cases weeks later, a new JPMorgan study found.
The firm analyzed spending by 30 million Chase credit and debit cardholders and coronavirus case data from Johns Hopkins University, and found that spending patterns from a few weeks ago “have some power in predicting where the virus has spread since then,” analyst Jesse Edgerton wrote Thursday. The study found that the “level of spending in restaurants three weeks ago was the strongest predictor of the rise in new virus cases over the subsequent three weeks,” in line with the firm’s recent studies using OpenTable data.
Notably, JPMorgan found that ‘card-present’ transactions in restaurants (meaning the person was dining in, not ordering online) were “particularly predictive” to a later spread of the virus.
And interestingly, the JPMorgan study also found that increased spending in supermarkets correlated to a slower spread of the virus. Analyst Edgerton wrote that the correlation hints that “high levels of supermarket spending are indicative of more careful social distancing in a state.” The firm pointed out that as of three weeks ago, supermarket spending in states like New York and New Jersey, which are now seeing a decrease in cases, was up 20% or more from a year ago, whereas states now seeing a surge like Texas and Arizona saw supermarket spending up less than 10%.
Still, JPMorgan notes that the correlation doesn’t take all factors into account, and states seeing a surge in cases share other characteristics apart from restaurant spending. The National Restaurant Association said in a statement that “It is irresponsible to pin the rise [of COVID-19 cases] on a single industry. Restaurants have historically operated with highly regulated safety protocols based on the FDA’s Food Code and now have taken new steps to meet social distancing guidelines required by state and federal officials. We all have responsibility for wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing.”
Indeed, states that reopened restaurants and bars earlier on are seeing surges in cases. On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that, “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” as the state announced it would be closing bars and reducing capacity at restaurants. Cases in Texas have risen over 5,400 as of Thursday. Florida, which has been criticized for reopening quickly, saw new cases spike to nearly 9,000 on Friday, also announcing it will reinstate some restrictions, Halsey Beshears, the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said in a tweet.
On Wednesday, the U.S. hit a record single-day new cases, reporting over 38,000 new cases across the country.
Yet despite the massive hit shutdowns and the recession have taken on the economy in the past several months, consumer spending actually appears to be on the rise. Consumer spending in May surged 8.2%—a record jump, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, off of two months of steep drops.
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