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By Sam van de Schootbrugge 29-07-2020

Mobility, Not Lockdown Easing, Will Drive The Recovery

(6 min read)
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The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt both health and economic blows. As new data emerges, many researchers aim to understand not only how severe the impact has been, but also how mitigating measures have influenced the outcomes. The challenge, however, is that many macroeconomic indicators are low frequency, making it difficult to isolate changes in economic activity to fiscal policies. To address such issues, a new IMF working paper uses high-frequency data on electricity usage, unemployment insurance claims and location-based mobility to track ‘real-time’ economic activity.
It asks:
1. Does the timing of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), such as school and business closures, explain differences in the economic consequences across European countries and US states?
2. How does people’s mobility respond to the outbreak?
3. What makes an economy more vulnerable to COVID-19?
The main result of the paper is that the timing of de jure NPIs has no discernible effect on economic outcomes. Otherwise stated, country- and state-wide differences in the timing of lockdown measures cannot explain variations in economic fallouts in Europe and the United States. Instead, the authors argue, mobility can help us understand the heterogeneous economic consequences of COVID-19.

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