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October 17, 2023

Post-Covid Indicators

Post-Covid Indicators

Flexport Research

October 17, 2023

Consumer Goods Preferences: Little Sign of Going Back

Flexport’s Post-Covid Indicator (PCI) measures the balance between U.S. consumers’ spending on goods versus services. Our latest update, which builds on the latest data release for August, forecasts the overall PCI to remain in the 70s from September through December, the current forecast period. Non-durables preferences have dropped to levels not far from pre-Covid levels (a reading of 0) while durables will rise above the summer 2020 levels (reading of 100) as we finish the holiday season, reaching 114 in December.

Covid-19 triggered a boom in goods demand, but how long will it last? We analyze exclusive shipping data to peek into the future. The monthly Flexport Post-Covid Indicator shows 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 can look at more recent shipping data and forecast the consumption patterns that are likely to follow. See our report “Understanding the Post-Covid Indicator” for more details.

Update October 17, 2023: The pressure on global supply chains, which has eased but not yet reverted to pre-pandemic norms, was the result of several factors in combination: strong incomes, a willingness to spend rather than save, and a heightened preference for goods in consumption. Flexport’s Post-Covid Indicator tracks the last of these.

The PCI compares the balance of spending in summer 2020 (PCI = 100) to that before the pandemic (PCI = zero). It peaked at over 150 in April 2021.

Fig. 1 Heightened Goods Preferences Persist

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The latest data show that consumer preferences for goods were unchanged in August from a month earlier. We forecast current levels of goods preference to hold through the rest of the year. These are below Summer 2020 levels but still well above pre-pandemic levels.

Fig. 2 Durables Preference Strong and Getting Stronger

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Figure 2 breaks down goods preferences into the two major subcategories: durable goods, which are meant to last three years or more, and nondurable goods. One of the real puzzles of the pandemic-era economy has been the enduring strength of demand for durable goods, which we are forecasting to remain above their summer 2020 levels and ascend from September through December. So the puzzle persists.

Non-durables have been trending down to their pre-Covid benchmark, but we forecast this trend to slow, with the December figure not far from August’s.

The next update for the Flexport PCI will be on November 17, 2023. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will release September data on October 27, 2023. Data for October will be released on November 30, 2023.

See our PCI Primer for more details. Please direct questions about the Flexport PCI to

Disclaimer: The contents of this report are made available for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any legal, business, or financial decisions. Flexport does not guarantee, represent, or warrant any of the contents of this report because they are based on our current beliefs, expectations, and assumptions, about which there can be no assurance due to various anticipated and unanticipated events that may occur. This report has been prepared to the best of our knowledge and research; however, the information presented herein may not reflect the most current regulatory or industry developments. Neither Flexport nor its advisors or affiliates shall be liable for any losses that arise in any way due to the reliance on the contents contained in this report.

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Flexport Research

October 17, 2023

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