Data provide mixed signals on Delta impact

The latest data provide mixed signals on the impact that the Delta variant is having on the economy. The high frequency indicators for high contact services suggest that activity levelled out in August and weakened a little in early September. Last month’s retail sales report also revealed that spending on food services was broadly flat, but control group sales nevertheless rebounded strongly, as households refocused their spending online and in favour of goods consumption. Elsewhere, leisure and hospitality employment was unchanged in August which, because that sector had been such an important contributor to the strength of the gains in earlier months, helps to explain why payroll employment increased by little more than 200,000 last month. Finally, even though activity only stagnated, the prices for some high contact service activity like hotels and air fares fell quite sharply. The good news is that, with Delta variant infections having now peaked, we should see some rebound in affected activity and employment soon, although the downside is that could contribute to a renewed pick-up in inflation linked to reopening.
Paul Ashworth Chief North America Economist
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