Down-to-Earth View of the “Recovery” in Near-Real Time, Eight Months into the Pandemic

As seen by indicators that have sprung up as a result of the Pandemic.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The US economy has turned into the weirdest concoction ever. Some aspects are booming, such as anything related to online shopping and entertainment, while other aspects are in the worst depression ever, such as airlines and hotels. So now eight months into the Pandemic, here’s my monthly update on the recovery in cities, in terms of what people are doing and where they’re going, if anywhere, as seen by the near-real-time indicators that have sprung up as a result of the Pandemic.

These raw unadjusted indicators compare daily or weekly data this year to how it was just before the Pandemic, or how it was at the same time last year. Since the data is not adjusted, it stumbled over the shift in the calendar of Labor Day, which this year fell on September 7, while last year, it fell on September 2. Independence Day was similar. But that’s the beauty of raw data.

People going to “Places of Commerce.”

How many people are going to stores, malls, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, airports, hospitals, offices, other places of commerce and other points of interest in the 40 largest metro areas in the US? The AEI’s weekly Index tracks this based on cellphone GPS data from Safegraph.com (everyone tracks cellphone GPS data, including Google for its traffic indications on its maps).

It doesn’t track how much money they spent, but how many people visited places of commerce, and it compares the number of visits on a weekly basis to the number of visits in the pre-Covid week ended January 15. A value of 100% would mean that visits are back to the January “old normal.” But note that January is always kind of slow in many parts of the country, given the post-holiday hangover. Nevertheless, that’s the point of reference.

The chart shows the AEI’s data through the week ended October 18, released today. The top bold blue Line is Kansas City (80% of January level). The bottom bold red line is San Francisco (45% of January level). The bold lines in between represent Dallas (69%), Philadelphia (60%), New York (55%), and Los Angeles (49%). Click on the chart to enlarge it.

Restaurants as measured by “seated diners.”

OpenTable provides daily data on “seated diners,” tracking how many people – walk-ins and those who made reservations online or by phone – actually sat down in restaurants to eat and drink, compared to the same weekday in the same week last year, based on thousands of restaurants in the US that shared this data with OpenTable. I converted daily numbers to a 7-day moving average to smoothen out the day-to-day fluctuation.

These are the types of restaurants where diners can make reservations. They exclude cafés, fast-food places, delis, and the like. Currently, into the eighth month of the Pandemic, “seated diners” are still down 41.1% from where they’d been last year at this time:

The number of restaurants that took reservations before the Pandemic and that are now taking reservations again was still down 26.5% on average over the past 30 days, compared to the same period last year. This is a rough stand-in for how many of these restaurants have re-opened – rough because some restaurants with outside-dining only have eliminated reservations as diners might not show up when it’s suddenly too cold and windy (one of our favorites in San Francisco has done that; it’s open though it no longer takes reservations):

The disconnect between the number of open restaurants being down only 26.5% from a year ago, to the number of seated diners being down 41.1% can in part be explained by reduced capacity in restaurants inside or outside.

Going to the Office.

How many people are entering offices each day compared to the Good Times? Kastle Systems provides access systems for 3,600 buildings and 41,000 businesses in 47 states, and it’s using this data to establish “office occupancy.” Kastle’s “10 City Average” of office occupancy is currently at 27.4% of the pre-Pandemic level in early March, meaning it’s still down by 72.6% since early March.

Office occupancy by metro: the occupancy levels for these 10 metros is shown as a percentage of their level in early March – the “high end” being an occupancy level of just 43.3% of where it had been in early March:

  1. Dallas: 43.3%
  2. Houston: 36.8%
  3. Austin: 35.4%
  4. Los Angeles: 34.0%
  5. Philadelphia: 28.8%
  6. Washington D.C.: 24.0%
  7. Chicago: 21.8%
  8. San Jose: 18.2%
  9. New York: 17.4%
  10. San Francisco: 14.7%

Kastle’s weekly “Back to Work Barometer” shows how office occupancy in these 10 metros has developed since early March (chart via Kastle Systems, click to enlarge):

The above chart is not a measure of employment but a measure of the impact of work-from-home on office occupancy. Offices may be open, but instead of 1,000 people working in an office building on a particular day, only 200 people might be working in the office, and 800 people might be working remotely.

Landlords and their lenders who’re still thinking work-from-home is just a blip will undergo a reckoning in due time. Read… Synchrony Financial Disclosed Radical Work-from-Home Plan, Layoffs, and “Office Footprint” Reduction

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  112 comments for “Down-to-Earth View of the “Recovery” in Near-Real Time, Eight Months into the Pandemic

  1. 2banana says:

    So why why is Kansas City and Dallas triple that of San Francisco in all measures?

    Same virus. Same country. Same medical treatments.

    Wildly different outcomes.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      2banana,

      Use your head, and the answers to your questions will become clear: 1. Because people in San Francisco have figured out how to work from home; and 2. because federal and foreign travel bans have killed international tourism to San Francisco, which normally brings a huge number of people to San Francisco that go to places of commerce and to restaurants, and they’re now gone.

      • BuySome says:

        But let’s not forget Fats Domino was excited that he was going to Kansas City while Otis Redding was bummed out about sittin’ on the dock of the bay. Perceptions may be coming into play in a new reality.

      • roddy6667 says:

        In July we had to come back to the States for a while. Not our choice. Visas have time limits. We can return as soon as China opens up to outsiders. Many people, even Chinese citizens, are stuck somewhere they don’t want to be. We flew to LAX and decided against flying domestic. I rented a car and drove to CT. After leaving CA, people wearing masks became a rare sight. Not until upstate NY did I see people being cautious.
        In Terre Haute, IN on a Thursday night, all the restaurants were packed and everybody was out. No masks, no distancing. In two weeks they were in the headlines as a “hot spot”.
        Flyover country has become the new playground for COVID-19.

        • Cas127 says:

          And the hospitalization and fatality rates in what you label a C19 playground?

        • roddy6667 says:

          Many people who do not die or even require hospitalization are turning out to have permanent damage to their hearts and other internal organs. Also, mental problems like impaired memory are common. C-19 is not just another cold or flu.

      • Tony22 says:

        Wolf nailed it. Plus the demographics of where the missing 86% of workers live affects shopping.
        San Francisco is practically an island, water on 3 sides, mountain on south, into which the productive people who used to normally work in office towers commuted from suburbs across the water, or down the peninsula. They still did lunchtime, afterhours or weekend shopping in the rapidly degenerating downtown, but now are gone. Lots of young techies lived in the city, but many are back where they came from working on laptops.

        The full time residents left to shop are the elite who can’t spend any more than they already do, who get gourmet ice cream deliveries at home, retired people, who are house rich but nearly broke, lowly service workers who live off a monthly Costco 50 pound sack of rice, blocks of frozen meat and veggies, multigenerational welfare cases who shop in Costco or 7-11, and assorted street dwellers who never shopped to begin with.

        San Francisco was the foremost abscess of underlying national civic decay. Now that the office commuters, techies and mass spenders who balanced it out with taxes and spending are boycotting it, the bubble has burst and the city is an open chancre.

        What about that 1.5% city payroll tax on companies with over 50 employees; can they avoid paying that for the 86% who are staying home?

      • MCH says:

        The nice thing though is that this means traffic in SF has died down. Although I think that might cause a revenue problem because who are all the meter maids going to give parking tickets to if there isn’t as many cars parked illegally?

        Now, that drive down 19th avenue isn’t quite as bad as it was before.

      • MooMoo says:

        But ‘Frisco “has too many people anyway” …right.

        Ah, they always think the effects can be dialed up and down. They can’t.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          MooMoo,
          I, like many locals, think San Francisco still has way too many people. Landlords think it has way too few people. The city’s revenue department can never get enough people. Hotels and Airbnb hosts want to drown in people….

          It’s not that we change our minds – we don’t – or that anyone wants to “dial” anything. It’s that there are two different kinds of ideas, and depending on who you ask (people who have to pay for it or people who make money off it), you get a different answer. No one is trying to dial anything here.

        • Crazy Horse says:

          Wolf, you need to add a “Moving to Idaho” column to your Ghost Town San Francisco reports. In the course of a few months the traffic jams of U-haul trucks being driven by California refugees is becoming unbearable. This place has been Californicated so rapidly that I’m leaving for Alaska.

    • Nate says:

      Kansas is showing a 1.7% death rate while California is at 3.5% mol. That may also have something to do with perceptions there at least. Data from worldometers.info

      • nodecentrepublicansleft says:

        We have done a shit job of testing in this country. Make sure you look at all the extra, unexplained deaths.

        Lots of people who very likely died from Covid weren’t tested, given autopsies, etc.

        The #s are being artificially kept low by certain states not reporting accurately. FL has been trying to sweep the deaths under the rug.

        During an NFL game last week, I heard the announcer discussing the death of NFL great Fred Dean (of San Fran 49ers). Oddly, the didn’t mention he died of Covid-19.

        This has happened a few times during NFL games…they lament the death of a past great but don’t mention the cause of death. A coincidence? I doubt it.

        I take the official #s with a huge grain of salt for all the obvious reasons. The country that sent a man to the moon and back can’t do basic science / common sense. Why?

        “Tyranny” is what the dupes bleat….

        • Tony22 says:

          We may do a shitty job of testing, but our military is working on delivering weapons anywhere in the world in under one hour, or double your warheads back.
          Priorities! USA,USA #1!

        • Candyman says:

          You make many assumptions. Here in Massachusetts, there is great testing, and reporting. Mass.gov. We wear masks, and are still basically shut down in Boston. Schools are remote. Businesses are about 10% back to office. We have a few hot spots, because of large parties and not following social distancing. This is not a conservative state. The virus doesn’t know your politics. So, it is personal behavior that matters, and it goes to show liberals get Covid too!

        • go2marakesh says:

          There’s a chart of the mortality rate in 2020 vs 2019 on the CDC website. It does not show a big difference between the states reported numbers but might suggest a slightly higher number overall. Of course, quarantines also raise other stuff like suicide rates and lowers accidents and such, so, might have to wait for a full picture.

          That Florida claim is a blatant lie. The lady that caused the ruckus has no experience in reading medical reports and determining the cause of death. Don’t believe the agit prop sites.

        • Heff says:

          Yes, I’m sure with Trump as president all the major news organizations are down playing the Covid death toll from those horrible Republican govs.

    • Turtle says:

      Looks like more conservative places have more going out and about. That wouldn’t be surprising. I can’t speak for Kansas City but many Texans have a sense of invincibility (or carelessness, if you prefer).

      I wonder if COVID will have a negative effect on liberal voter turnout. There is more caution (or fear, if you prefer) on that side of the spectrum. I saw an older gentleman wearing a gas mask when voting this week.

      • Harrold says:

        Its rare to see masks worn in some parts of Dallas.

        Even the strip clubs are open.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Our area north of Houston (Montgomery County) is acting like the virus never was here. Schools are back in session, school buses everywhere in the morning, long waits at restaurants, retail stores are full, etc. Traffic is back to normal which means people have gone back to work. Not many WFH type businesses here.

        I’ll have to say though that masks are being worn by 90% of the people I see.

  2. MCH says:

    Welcome to the new normal.

    This is even better than the old normal, which was the financial crisis in 2008. The only differences, that this new normal will now be permanent.

    • Keith says:

      Well, with WFH and near mandatory online shopping and food orders, at least we can entire from the comfort of our Lazy Boys. :)

      • Winston says:

        Soon to become Wall-E floaty chairs? With a side-order of left-wing, e-commerce, multinational corporation tyranny?

        • MooMoo says:

          …check.

          (o, and those worthless PCR tests weren’t really just a massive DNA harvest, now were they….)

  3. Senecas’s Cliff says:

    When looking at the places of commerce graph one of the big differences between the places that dropped the most like San Fran, and the places that dropped the least like Kansas City is the extent to which each of these cities depended on tourists before Covid. In Portland the central core has been very driven by tourists seeking the Portlandia experience (before Covid) while the burbs where I live had almost none. As a result the traffic in restaurants, coffee shops , tap houses etc. is down much less in the burbs during Covid time as there were no tourists to loose.

    • two beers says:

      My hunch is the severity of the drop is roughly proportional to the gentrification in each city. Cities that let the banker/builder/landlord/used house salesman mobsters take land that was formerly used for blue collar jobs and convert it into luxury AirBnB lofts and twee “creative” office space for 22 year-old symbol manipulators are now seeing those same kids abandon their mattresses on the sidewalks outside their co-living SROs as they decamp for mom and dad’s.

      Most office work can be transitioned to WFH, but blue collar jobs almost by definition don’t have the same luxury. Further, blue collar workers are more likely to live near their families, and even in the unlikely case their work allowed for WFH, they wouldn’t be moving “back home,” because they already ARE home.

      Yes, blue collar jobs have been decimated over the last twenty-five years, but those that remain lend economic resilience and stability to their communities. Cities that went all out for the brass ring, especially San Francisco, have no economic resiliency or diversity to fall back on.

      SF put all its economic eggs in one basket, and that basket has blown out.

      Oops.

      • stoneweapon says:

        two beers

        Point well taken.

        As a self employed local manufacturer I have always been a strong advocate of localization and decentralization. Having a balanced employment of manufacturing, education, healthcare, high tech, services, construction and tourism is a gem when there’s a crises because you have all the essential resources you need locally. My company was able to provide free space, welding equipment and use of a paint booth for fabricating shields for local restaurants, I refused to take a dime. A gift economy works much better when your local resources are whole.

      • BeyonD the RubicoN says:

        I live in SF moved from LA, and to some extent I see what you describe. I am a tradesman moving into a professional setting. All the tradesman I know live outside of the city and commute in for work. The union guys could afford to live in the city- barely, but cant justify the rents. The rents, are like a private toll on the labor of others for the rentiers wealth creation, have killed city life for working people.

      • nick kelly says:

        I honestly don’t know this is not sarcasm, but was San Fran ever an industrial player?

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Need only look at the pollution of the south SF area to answer that question NK,,
          Certainly, the entire SF Bay area was the most industrial player on the west coast of USA, including, especially the wonderful work of Kaiser and his many many associates, including especially his union associates who might have won the ”war in the Pacific” by their heroic out put of a ship a day, etc…
          While Harry Bridges was certainly a ”scourge” for the local ”robber barons”,,, he also did his best to make sure the munitions, etc., needed went out of the Port of SF as fast as possible, along with making sure his guys were paid fairly.
          Why We the Peedons have allowed all the really and truly heroic his and her stories of all WW2 efforts to be denigrated is beyond my understanding.
          Every GROUP then, mostly not differentiated, did their best to make and put to work the best machines, etc., without regards to any other categorization or divisional metric of our species… Thank God.

    • Jessy James says:

      Excellent observation! I live near Yosemite, which was closed, but bazillions of flatlanders (no offense Wolf) came from the Bay area and LA and just parked in the National parks, since they were too scared to get on a plane and Disney was closed. What was the consequence? Tons of stimulus and unemployment dollars flooded our little town. And, when the flatlanders left, the smoky haze consumed us… Thanks alot Wolf. (sad emoji) (vulgar language emoji) (pissed off emoji)

      • Zantetsu says:

        I can see that you don’t get too many opportunities to feel superior and are making the most of this one.

  4. MF says:

    The “experience economy” does indeed appear to be over. Going to Instagrammable place is dead. Back yard barbecues are back.

    Agree, Wolf, these are very silver linings to an awful economic covid cloud.

    Too bad our “superiors” don’t see themselves as being in common cause with the rest of us. That would be truly glorious and it would have a fighting chance of pulling us back together as a cohesive nation again.

    :/

  5. Memento mori says:

    I don’t know but here in Southern California the traffic is just as dense if not worse than precovid.
    I see some businesses booming some others suffering , a mostly typical recession I would say.
    When we will look back at this in a few years, the only remaining thing will be the exorbitant overreaction of the Fed and government stimuluses.
    Their damage remains to be seen.

  6. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    If these building occupancy percentages don’t improve it is not just the commercial landlords that will be in the dumper. Theses urban cores are not economically viable at these percentages. There is no way to afford to keep up the infrastructure, utilities etc with such low numbers. Does this stuff get repurposed or does nature take it back like in that book, “ The world without us.”

    • lenert says:

      Over the last decades of de-industrialization Dayton did a lot of demolition. Detroit turned out the lights.

    • MCH says:

      But… but… imagine the possibilities, local grocers, local restaurants, local bars all opening up in these areas, and artists and musicians and lovers all coming in… it will turn these old gentrified neighborhoods and replace those monolithic tech offices making it into paradise… Imagine (so the song went)

      🤣

      Sorry, couldn’t help myself, thought I was going to run for office or something… waxing poetic like that and ignoring reality.

    • Trailer Trash says:

      I keep thinking those images of tall buildings covered in vines are coming to a reality near us.

      They don’t make very good squats after the elevators quit. Wild critters will put them to good use. Especially cockroaches and rats.

  7. Patrick says:

    What happens when WFH turns into ZPS (Zoom pink slip) as businesses realize there’s an unlimited supply of far cheaper foreign remote workers?

    • two beers says:

      At that point, maybe people in the10% white collar professional-managerial class will begin to understand which side they are on in the Wall St war against the working class.

    • KamikazeShaman says:

      Exactly.

      Just like manufacturing was sent overseas for the cost benefit over the past 30+ years so it will go for the freshly minted WFH crowd. It will be hard for companies to resist and will be phased in over time, but this is bound to happen if all you need is a laptop/webcam/internet connection. I think the salary adjustments for cost of living (based on location) that a lot of these large companies are proposing is an indicator that cheap overseas “WFH” labor is going to be a viable opportunity. The time zone issue is easily remedied my making the foreign WFH crew be “on” from 8am – 6pm eastern or pacific time. They will become nocturnal (if necessary) to accommodate the time difference.

      Combine that with AI/Robotics taking a healthy share of jobs over the next 10-20yrs and you have the makings of a nationwide unemployment catastrophe on the not so distant horizon.

  8. Paulo says:

    When I see dinner reservations have dropped….let’s say 40%, I am still surprised they are at 60% of the past.

    This is a virus pandemic. Yes, it is inconvenient and some businesses are hammered. If it was an earthquake would we still build houses that fall down? Will homes be rebuilt in the CA fire zones? Time to move on and the smart investors will pick the trend.

    Will the World continue without reservation dining? Air travel? Candle shops? Wedding services? Auto detailing? Yup and double yup. So what enterprises will always be needed? Food production, distribution, and sales. Trucking and transport. Healthcare and emergency health services. Legal services and law enforcement. Education. Home construction and maint. Engineering and design. Energy production and distribution. Clothing and footwear. etc.

    Restaurants, tourism support services, air travel, cruise lines, most hotels, and leisure activities, not so much. Probably could do without the whale watching excursions and kayak rental shops in my area. Golf? hah hah.

    17 years ago my son was just out of high school, smart, and floundering. I got him into a trade, electrical as opposed to Dad’s carpentry. I told him the World will always need/use energy, and in the future it will probably transition to mostly electrical. He hasn’t missed a day’s work as he services/maintains/constructs electric and autonomous transport vehicles and machinery in the Alberta oil sector. And what was he doing for work when he was taking his pre-apprenticeship training? Cooking in a restaurant sports bar. His best friend owns a karate dojo and moonlighted playing music. He has other friends whose work stopped in March. What is his best friend doing now? Running the dojo the best he can and paying his bills painting houses for new construction. The sports bar is closed.

    My point is not to be callous. I just think our society has been unrealistic for so long we have lost our way. Will it matter if another cruise ship fails to sail again? There is other and more important work to do. Of course we will always have restaurants, bars, and hotels. Just not to the extent that was considered normal 7 months ago.

    • Tom Pfotzer says:

      Paulo – great comment. The reason all those un-necessary jobs exist is because the so-called “indispensable” components of the economy are so efficient. Think about ag, energy production, most manufacturing…it doesn’t need very many people.

      The problem runs deeper than just “let’s all do necessary things”. We need some new “necessary things” which pay a decent wage, and that’s where the wheels fall off the wagon.

      That’s why giving away free money is now the sole leg we’re (economically) standing upon. We can’t find any new necessary high-wage jobs.

      Globalization will slow down once wages equalize (at a lower level), but automation is goes on and on. And automation works.

      And that’s the framing for this remark:

      What I like about your lifestyle is that you can provide for yourself, and no longer have to work for wages in order to support yourself.

      I predict that many others will discover the value of that strategy.

      • stoneweapon says:

        It is civilization’s duty to entice us, to seduce us into its fold. It must somehow offer something better for us than what we could do on their own. That is the real essence of the social contract. When all the ‘dangers’ that society protects us from are increasingly just the dangers that society itself poses, what we have entered into is slavery.

      • Cas127 says:

        “We can’t find any new necessary high-wage jobs.”

        Hmm…health care could fill this role (there are still an infinite number of diseases) but political pathologies lend illegitimate power to incumbent providers (licensing far in excess of utility, absurd certificate of “need” laws restricting supply of facilities, etc) and misdirect incoming, retrained personnel into engorged administrative overhead (bought votes) rather than actual frontline providers and researchers.

        See higher education as well.

        In both cases, policy pathologies have somehow managed to convert incoming additional supply of personnel into *higher* consumer costs.

        And *worse* consumer outcomes.

        In direct contravention of supply and demand.

        • Tom Pfotzer says:

          Absolutely right. And I don’t see those pathologies changing top-down till a major disruption occurs, cas127.

          That’s why I advocate for individuals to gradually and systematically bypass the corrupted “market”. It’s not a market, it’s a gamed system and we (little peeps) ain’t gonna win that game.

          The game’s rigged, we’re the “mark”, and that’s not going to get changed. So I want to play a different game.

    • Harvey Mushman says:

      “17 years ago my son was just out of high school, smart, and floundering. I got him into a trade, electrical as opposed to Dad’s carpentry. I told him the World will always need/use energy, and in the future it will probably transition to mostly electrical. He hasn’t missed a day’s work as he services/maintains/constructs electric and autonomous transport vehicles and machinery in the Alberta oil sector.”

      What??? you mean you don’t need to go to college???

      • VintageVNvet says:

        ””What??? you mean you don’t need to go to college???”’
        Surprising that, eh HM,,, and as one of the ”PRE-boomer” gen, AKA ‘War Baby” or more recently, ”Silent Generation,” that was my main driving force as a younger person, until I had worked my way through college, dropping out for active duty and then twice more to work full time…
        One offspring with M.A. teaches and is happy with that, other one ”dropped out” after one year, and is happy being a very highly skilled, paid, and sought tradesman making a ton more $$.
        OK, the world of work, along with the rest of the world, IS moving on,,, get used to it, and find what you love to do that is also something in demand.

    • KamikazeShaman says:

      Paulo, not to be callous and not also saying that being in a trade is not a smart/safe idea, but the world you describe where everyone becomes an underwater welder or plumber sounds really boring.

      I live to attend incredible concerts, travel all over the country and internationally for work as well as explore nature (hiking, camping, kayaking and whale watching included). It’s called fun. It’s called life experiences. It’s called cultural immersion. It takes real people to make all that happen.

      I have deep appreciation for folks working a trade. It’s hard work, but it’s also a much safer bet with less risk involved in job stability. That’s a big plus, but there is more to life and humanity at large than a good safe job.

      I also have a deep appreciation for all of the artists, musicians, painters, poets, performers, producers, venue owners, fly fishing guides, entrepreneurs and independent creative minds that follow their individual talents and contribute to make the world an interesting, cultural place to live in. They took a risk by not just listening to their daddy’s daddy and get a safe job fixing tractors, hanging drywall or learning HVAC. They chose the “path of peril” and are getting completely screwed right now. The pendulum will swing back eventually but for now these risky professions are experiencing true pain.

      Have you ever heard of a 102 piece orchestra where everyone was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers? Imagine what that would end up sounding like.

  9. polecat says:

    I liken the shifts within the nationals economys as rather amoebic .. changing, morphing as thresholds are reached before collapsing or fading out …

    Not necessarily fun acting as the churned-up protoplasm though .. or even worse!, waste products …

  10. hans says:

    Just wanted to comment that these charts are informative for the casual reader. I don’t see this info elsewhere. Presumably there will be knock on effects for commercial construction that will play out long term.

  11. DawnsEarlyLight says:

    An economy based on the path of least resistance, and about time, value for your money! A down to earth view of an ‘almost regular guy’.

  12. William Smith says:

    You didn’t include anything about people who went to live music events: probably because there weren’t any. I saw in interview with Andrew Lloyd Webber and he said that the British music industry is [a word beginning with “f”] and is probably past the point of no return. Musicians *only* make money from merch spruiked from touring. That is cactus now. After the virus is gone, “they” will have successfully destroyed the music and arts industries. Yay “them!” Lots of lawsuits in the works.

    • Winston says:

      I don’t recall whether it was Wolf or Charles Hugh Smith in an interview who said that many may be weaned from the sporting event addiction, too, and find other things to entertain them. The hateful, neo-Marxist-based politics also don’t help. People don’t watch sporting events to be preached to or hear about politics. They watch sports to escape that.

      • Zantetsu says:

        I think only a small percentage of viewers actually care about those “neo-Marxist-based” political expression in sports. The rest just watch the sports and ignore the drama.

        But those who want to focus on that drama, will just keep burning that candle because indignation is its own form of entertainment it seems.

        I’ve said for a long time that being offended is the national past-time of the USA.

        • cas127 says:

          Basketball finals viewership down about 35%, World Series down about 25%.

          Those aren’t trivial numbers.

          And, given the absurd amount of money spent on sports, those declines mean billions less going into the pockets of posturing millionaires.

        • Beardawg says:

          Zanetsu

          Could not agree more. Disengaged from Facebook 3 years ago because the larger your victimization, the greater your status.
          I love watching NFL – less than .00001 of people can do what they do – it is entertaining, inspiring and exciting.

        • Zantetsu says:

          cas127 the downward trend is likely due to younger generations not caring about sports as much. It has little or nothing to do with politicization.

          This whole discussion is about the presumption that political expression in professional sports is what is driving the downward trend in viewership. It is not. The NFL, the most controversial league, is faring better than most in the downwards rating trends.

        • MCH says:

          No need to worry about basketball, the viewership in the US doesn’t matter anyway, that’s no longer the main market. As long as we shut the GM of the Houston Rockets up, China will be where the primary source of revenue.

          Everybody, from Adam Silver to King James knows this. The opinion of the US viewers hardly matter any more, the same is true with all of the associated brands. Do you see Nike going out of the way to promote their shoes with the Dali Lama…

          Of course not. Because Nike like the NBA isn’t stupid.

          The NFL and MLB on the other hand do need to be careful, they don’t have a Chinese cash cow…. so, from that point of view, the US crowd still matters.

        • Candtman says:

          ESPN laid off 10% of employees. Why…drop in viewera, why…Keep politics out of sports.

        • Cas127 says:

          Z,

          “likely due to younger generations not caring about sports as much. It has little or nothing to do with politicization.”

          Why did “younger generations” suddenly stop caring over a single year? The most politicized year ever.

          The general C19 chaos/dislocation NBA/MLB overlap would be a much more convincing counterargument.

          We will see in a yr.

          And even less for the NFL.

          And the delusionally “hunted” King James made the NBA the most politicized.

      • Harrold says:

        Marxism in a tax payer funded stadium?

        • El Katz says:

          They can kneel through the national anthem all they want. It’s freedom of expression. However, I can express my opinion by tuning out the broadcasts / refusing to attend live events (if and when they return). As the ratings/attendance drops, the advertising rates follow and soon the multi-million dollar contracts go away. Corporate sponsors of the stadiums evaporate. Corporate sky suites go begging. Food and merchandise vendors leave in droves. How long before the stadiums close due to lack of revenue? I don’t believe they are immune.

          These folks fail to see that they are entertainers. Nothing more. Forgetting that can be fatal – especially when you alienate approximately half the viewership that provides the revenue that pays your salary, regardless of your stated position.

        • Zantetsu says:

          El Katz, I know you like to believe that there is a huge contingent of people just waiting to boycott sports along with you, but there isn’t. Most people are fortunately more level-headed than that and understand how to ignore unnecessary drama. It’s only the overy politicized individuals on either side that continue to burn the candle for all of this pointless bickering.

          All sports ratings are declining, and the NFL is faring better than most. The decline has little to nothing to do with spats between political idealogues.

      • Mike G says:

        Yes, I don’t want to be bothered by the players’ politics, now sit down for the B-2 bomber flyby, the “Salute to America’s Military Heroes” and the unfurling of the giant American flag. /s

        Personally I wish they would dump all this rigmarole, skip the anthem (leave that for government and military events) and just get on with the game.

  13. BuySome says:

    No matter how this plays out, some day, somewhere, some survivor will pick up some kind of board and go surfing again. All the rest of human civilization’s hopped-up perceptions of itself matters not…no one here gets out alive. So there is some consolation in knowing even the worst isn’t the end..a long time before the light on Tralfamador (close enough) goes out. Hello. Goodbye.

    • Old School says:

      This recession will change things a lot, and of course the election is important factor about who gets to rebuild the country coming out of the disaster. A couple of changes I am reading about are that new home design is going away from open concept due to wfh and of course the move to single family homes.

      Read that GM Hummer new electric truck is sold out for a year and only expensive model is available first at somewhere around $110,000. It’s a little bit of a microcosm of USA with people with money having the wealth to virtual signal to make up for consumption while the lower half of income earners are figuring out how to get from point A to point B anyway they can, sometimes in 30 year old vehicle.

      • Dan Romig says:

        As I have commented a while ago, my neighborhood in south Minneapolis has seen a new trend of people building guest residences and offices above their detached garages.

        Although it’s not being re-built, my new neighbor next door is adding insulation, a propane heater and woodworking machine tools to his garage. A ‘man-cave’ that’s functional and productive seems like a good thing to have, eh?

        • Tom Pfotzer says:

          Yes. Home-based production, esp. for tradeable essentials, is next decade’s trend.

      • Turtle says:

        I’d sure like to see smaller houses built on bigger lots but that ain’t gonna happen. :-/

      • Turtle says:

        Holy cow, a 1,000 hp convertible with truck bed. Almost sounds like a good deal for $110K.

        I though Hummer was sold to a Chinese company during our last financial fiasco. What happened?

      • Yort says:

        Note that the $112k base price hummer EV only requires a $100 REFUNDABLE deposit. The new Bronco, the upcomingTESLA EV truck, etc…all the same, $100 bucks REFUNDABLE. This generates massive FOMO. We have kids with mommy and daddy’s credit cards reserving $135k the hummer EV (price with markup and sales tax). Beanie babies, tickle me Elmo, $135k EV trucks….LOL…evolution at its best…HA

        Don’t fall for the American Materialism Cult. I have a friend whose dad is a multi-billionaire, and they both drive $60k vehicles. I also know a person who lives in a single wide and drives a $90k vehicles. Due to low interest, multi-year lease and ownership payments, it is very hard to project wealth via your ride. Most of my wealthy friends drive vehicles that cost much less than my less wealthy friends. That is one of the reasons they got so wealthy to begin with…

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello.

  14. Anthony says:

    You will tend to find that profits at restaurants comes from the last 10% of customers (the first 90% pay the costs)……..If they are down, say just 20%, then they are doomed….doomed I say….

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Don’t generalize on the basis of insufficient or incomplete info AA::
      SOME restaurants will close from the covid restrictions and lack of customers,,, OTHER restaurants will continue, ,,, and still Others will open with a clear vision of what needs to be done to be profitable in the current operating environment… and ditto with many other small bizzes, eh? Read today that 6500 new restaurants have OPENED last 6 months.
      I was truly amazed to find, many decades ago that the only biz that went BK more than start up general contractors was restaurants, a trend that is likely to still bee happening, and will continue based mostly on the optimism and good intentions of resturanteurs and construction folks.

  15. Michael Engel says:

    1) The pandemic CRAK oil demand. XOM expected Q4 layoffs will start in the next few weeks. How deep, nobody know.
    2) XOM didn’t lose so much money for 36Y, since 1984.
    3) In the early 1960 ARAMCO, the four American horses, discovered oil in the Saudi desert. TX oil slump led to a TX banking crisis. After JFK assassination TX was gushing again and the banking crisis was over, thanks to LBJ.
    4) After the end of Iran & Iraq war, – new oil fields in Alaska, the N. sea, the
    Gulf of Mexico, Siberia, – sent oil prices to the ground between Apr 1986
    to Jan 1999, with one exception : the 1991 oil prices spike, during the USSR collapse.
    5) The DOW extracted XOM few months ago. The DOW retraced 80%
    of the uptrend from Jan 2016 low to Feb 2020 peak. The probability of
    exceeding Feb 2020 peak is very low.
    6) XOM @33 is trending closer and closer to a single digit stock, thanks
    to a virus.

  16. Crush the Peasants! says:

    Everything becoming virtual awaits the reality of virtual human beings. Just make sure the storage of your neural essence is secure and backed up.

  17. Michael Engel says:

    7) Mr. Winter will be back. Restaurant traffic is likely to drop to a new all time low in Q1 2021, rise during summer 2021, boosted by CV19 vaccine,
    down in Q1 2022 by depression treats.
    8) Dallas & Houston office vacancy rates were the highest in the nation to begin with. Nobody occupied them prior the pandemic.

  18. Michael Engel says:

    1) The deadly virus.
    2) When the virus takeover it purge it’s opponents, because it’s all about power.
    3) The bloody trail started after the assassination of Dag Hammarskjold,
    UN boss, who blackmailed his opponent, in 1961.

    • pbfurn says:

      Proofreading before posting can be a wonderful thing.

    • BuySome says:

      Dear Mr. M. Nostradamus, Please avoid the odd numbers and keep it quatrains or easily divisible multiples thereof (8, 12, ~). When will the book be available. Signed, Your Friends at the Old French Translation Society.

  19. Lee says:

    “Restaurants as measured by “seated diners.” –

    Easy stats for Melbourne, Victoria compared to the same time last year:

    -100% as they are all closed for eat in dining and have been since March except for a couple of days before the lockdown was resumed.

    If and when they CBD ever opens up again the highways are going to be even more crowded than before as people are not going to take public transport into the city for fear of catching the virus.

    Of course, with the virus the future of public transport is up in the air. How many people will starting using it again and when will they feel safe using it?

    The State Labor government has again found itself spending billions on a project that on the one hand is probably going to be useless and on the other probably good.

    They embarked on getting rid of some of the worst railroad track crossings in the city where traffic would back up for 30 minutes as train after train would result in boom gates stopping the traffic from moving. They also rebuilt the stations at all these crossings and spent up big time on those as well. At least they look decent so far.

    One of the worst ones was by a major emergency hospital and I often wonder how many people died in the ambulance on the way there as traffic was stalled. I was once caught there and it took me 35 minutes to get through the crossing.

    The crossing removal and contruction in our little part of paradise is supposed to have work started on the by end of the year and take a couple of years to finish. They are spending $A166 million to put in an underpass and redo the bus exchange.
    e
    So once all these removals are finished it will improve traffic flow in the city.

    But the train system is in trouble as the trains they bought from, guess where, yep, China, are still not built.

    Reading about other countries and cities that bought similar ones all you hear about is how they are of poor quality and the numerous faults that they have had with them.

    And as usual our gasoline price cycle has again had its price spike. Filled up the car and a couple of jerry cans at the price of A$1.019 with a 4 cent per liter discount coupon.

    This price cycle down lasted a pretty long time: 6 weeks between price spikes. of course tomorrow is a public holiday here in Melbourne. Wouldn’t have anything to dow ith the price increase, would it?

    Yesterday the price spiked to A$1.479 per liter which is the biggest move in absolute and relative prices that I can remember: a whopping 42 cents per liter or almost a 40% increase in one day!!!

    Of course with the previous 5 kilometer travel limit we haven’t been using that much gasoline and still won’t even with the 25 kilometer limit now.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Lee,
      With the publication yesterday of the study of the Emirates flights for the last few months, a study concentrating on how many ”transmissions” of this covid virus occurred on their flights, including numbers of folks on those flights with the virus and how many ”got” the virus on those flights, it certainly appears to be the case based on that evidence, that wearing the mask, the best mask one can access, is the simple answer to preventing most cases of transmission.
      As such, the very simple wearing of the mask in and on public transport ought to be the very most simple thing for all concerned with either giving or receiving the virus…
      Other than that simple precaution, IMHO the rest of it is some sort of political thing, and, as we know so clearly these days, ”the political thing” has no boundaries or limits or really rational basis.

      • Xabier says:

        Masks are very good: insisting on the necessity of a vaccine is quite simply the Trojan horse for mass surveillance and tracking systems, which have ulterior motives behind them – see the ‘Warp Speed’ programme.

        • OutsideTheBox says:

          Really ???….Are you talking about tracking devices for humans implanted during vaccination for COVID????

          Next you will say we got that technology from the Roswell crash…

          I can’t even get decent cell phone service….and my insane fellow citizens think we have invisible implanted trackers.

          Idiocracy….prophetic, no?

      • Lee says:

        Unfortunately the problem with public transport as shown by the spread of the virus in the western and northern suburb areas of the city is that poor people or people with low incomes and no access to cars will be forced to use it.

        (NOTE: The workers in the state botched hotel quarantine program picked up the virus and then spread it all over the western and nothern suburbs and aged care facilites which resulted in our 3 month and continuing strict lockdown. Most of these people were/are low paid minimum wage workers from immigrant backgrounds. These are all facts established by the ongoing indpendent commission investigating the screw up in the hotel quarantine program.)

        And unfortunately a lot of these people are poorly educated and a lot of them don’t speak or read English very well.

        So the chance of them picking up the virus is higher than people that use their own cars or are better eudcated.

        This was illustrated just the other day where ‘mis-communication’ in an immigrant family caused another virus cluster to break out. A huge number of testing sites were set up in the outbreak areas and most of them still had zero tests or very few done.

        “Community leaders” in these areas didn’t even want to talk about the outbreak or problem.

        Contrast this with what happened in a regional town that had a couple of cases: people lined up for hours to get tested and the word got out to everybody………………….

        So I can already tell you that if and when a third wave of the virus outbreak happens it is going to start in the northern or western suburbs and again be spread by public transport………………

        It just doesn’t matter what you tell some people – they won’t listen or do the right thing.

        Walking around yesterday I saw four people not wearing masks. Now if theis was 10:00pm on a deserted street it might be okay, but not at 8:00am with a huge number of people on the streets or in the park.

  20. David Mac says:

    As Monty Python would sing: Always look on the bright side of life.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      Our situation is temporary. As the Black Knight said, “I’ll bite your legs off!”

  21. George W says:

    A view from an Amazon van.

    At the start of the pandemic, Amazon deliveries fell off a cliff.
    Once the supplemental unemployment benefits were issued Amazon’s delivery counts returned to normal/above normal.

    As soon as the supplemental unemployment benefit ran out Amazon’s package count dropped in half again. Even Prime week was lackluster.

    Flex drivers( Uber/door dash types ) have returned in droves. Amazon is now offering 1 hour delivery from Whole foods and likely other merchants.

    • Turtle says:

      I probably see five Amazon vans for every UPS/Fedex. I saw two on my street at the same a while ago.

      • George W says:

        I often deliver to the same apt complex twice a day even though I only load my van once per day.

        So Amazon’s AI creates a stop/bin/package based on initial purchases from the previous day. As new orders come in they create a second stop/bin/package and place it at the end of my route. Very efficient.

        Amazon’s delivery model must frustrate the hell out of UPS/Fedex Executives. Amazon is basically providing the same service their business model is built around for free.

  22. Turtle says:

    I do wonder where the tax dollars go. Anybody take a drive through La Jolla lately? It’s like the houses and the roads they sit on exist in two different dimensions.

  23. lenert says:

    The fifth largest economy in the world, home to 165 billionaires? That California?

  24. Seneca's cliff says:

    There may be one unfortunate trend that will lead to repopulating these urban cores. The Coronavirus infection rate is taking off in the rocky mountain states in a bad way. Yesterday (red state) Idaho had an infection level 3 times Oregon with less than half the population. They have already filled all their available ICU beds and are begging to send patients to Oregon and Washington. Of course the only big health care facilities that can handle such a load are in Portland and Seattle. So as the virus runs out of control in these states they will truck in the sick to the big west coast cities providing jobs and downtown activity as the empty buildings are repurposed as Covid recovery wards for folks from the interior.

  25. Quit worrying about the butts in the seats. The economy is going to transition, and shopping always was an activity for the old reptile brain. All this screaming individualism while society disintegrates. Rich selfish individuals service poor selfish individuals. You can’t serve consumers while destroying your workers. If this is the new beehive demographics, why would anyone want to be a worker bee?

    • Yertrippin says:

      Reaping the harvest of a society built on peak ego.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      For the honey.

    • BuySome says:

      Never changes-The dumbest monkey on the whole planet, and the dumbest planet on the whole monkey. The greatest accomplishment of the industrial revolution was the man made mountains…but after the Triangle fire, we worked it up towad MGM Grand, Twin Towers, and now the covid chimney elevator shafts…all while banning the backyard incinerator. In Southern California even, out goes the solar clothesline to be replaced with the electric dryer making room for more people crammed in on top of what was one of the best gardens of the world. Now the true greatest accomplishment has been our sifting through the tossed garbage of dead empires just to figure who we really are. Peddling a bicycle that goes nowhere so we can order the next generation replacement right there without dismounting. Pretty darn strange animals. Gotta wonder what the dogs and cats really think of us.

    • Yort says:

      Ambrose – The Atlantic had an article today that I believe you would find enlightening. Search title below:

      “Are We Trading Our Happiness for Modern Comforts?”
      As society gets richer, people chase the wrong things.

      ARTHUR C. BROOKS
      OCTOBER 22, 2020

      One of the greatest paradoxes in American life is that while, on average, existence has gotten more comfortable over time, happiness has fallen.

  26. c1ue says:

    The “honeymoon” for restaurants in SF is about to end.
    Outdoor was fine when it was warm; even with the La Nina this year – winter is coming.
    Rain, cold and wind.
    Same true for the rest of the US.

  27. Michael Engel says:

    David Mack : today might be a sunny day for XLE.

  28. Xi Ping says:

    Great drop in claim numbers today!

  29. Yort says:

    Best Recession EVER!!! (for millionaires)

    Per NPR:

    Homes in the $100,000 to $250,000 range only saw a 4% gain in sales compared to a year ago, while sales of homes costing more than $1 million more than doubled.

  30. Bobber says:

    What we are witnessing is the power of stimulus provided to ordinary people, as opposed to banks and the 1%. The ordinary person’s stimulus was only a part of the stimulus package, yet it provided an instant pick-up in spending and economic activity, unlike the never-ending series of QE programs the Federal Reserve Bank stubbornly pursued unsuccessfully.

    Let there be no doubt. If you give money to ordinary folks and small businesses, they will spend it and spur the economy. If you give money to bankers, large corporations, or the 1% and they will simply save it, which does nothing except expand an already enormous wealth gap.

    I have a feeling a little too much demand was created, causing inflation to rise. I see it in home prices, autos, food, and other major spending categories. The next inflation print could be a whopper.

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