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New Post-Covid Indicator Predicts 8-16-21

August 17, 2021

New Post-Covid Indicator Predicts Goods Demand Rising High by Fall


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Covid-19 triggered a boom in goods demand, but how long will it last? We analyze exclusive shipping data to peek into the future. Consult the new, monthly Flexport Post-Covid Indicator to see how demand could shift in the coming months.

The Methodology: The Flexport Post-Covid Indicator is based on an analysis of correlations between detailed shipping data and national consumption behavior. As one would expect, given how goods move, the closest correlations are between shipping flows in a month and consumption a bit later. Using the estimated model, we are able to look at more recent shipping data and forecast the consumption patterns that are likely to follow.

  • The Flexport Post-Covid Indicator will be 147 in July, 145 in August, and 155 in September. These numbers indicate a shift in Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) goods shares to well above the levels of Summer 2020.
  • The recent figures bring the PCI close to the record March 2021 peak of 168.
  • Last month’s Flexport Post-Covid Indicator was right about the slight decrease from May. The BEA has since revised more than a year’s data, which changed the numbers.

We’ll continue to explore potential scenarios, derived from data and updated regularly, to help prepare your company for what’s ahead. Want the official August report? All yours.

The latest Flexport data shows goods mania is still going strong, even after a minor dip last month. As we head into Fall 2021, the preference for goods over services is climbing back towards peak Spring 2021 levels. All of this remains well above past norms and above the elevated levels of Summer 2020.

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The chart tracks the share of PCE spent on goods vs. services in green. The Flexport Post-Covid Indicator, in red, is scaled so that the old average is 0 and the Summer 2020 average is 100. The chart shows the latest revised data for both the BEA and Flexport.

Looking ahead, the Flexport Post Covid Indicator forecasts 147 in July, holding fairly flat to 145 in August, then rising to 155 in September. These correspond to a highly elevated preference for goods over services in Personal Consumption Expenditures.

For the four years preceding the Covid economic shock, the PCE goods share averaged 31.2%, with very little variation. From June to October 2020, it leapt up to a stable average of 34%. Then, it dipped in late 2020, before soaring in March 2021.

This month’s report includes two big changes from last month’s Post-Covid Indicator release. First, the BEA revised over a year’s worth of its data; that changed the numbers slightly. Second, we factored in additional Flexport shipping data and re-estimated. The upshot is that the craze appears to be reviving more than subsiding.

So, how did the Flexport Post-Covid Indicator do with its June forecast? Not bad at all. We forecast a 6% decrease from May levels; the actual BEA release for June showed a 4.3% decrease.

Stay tuned for the next Flexport Post-Covid Indicator in September and email trade.intelligence@flexport.com with questions.

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