The reopening of the economy is being met by a recovery in consumer spending, according to a new report from TD Economics.
Economists at TD examined new, almost real-time transaction data from the bank’s customers (including credit and debit card transactions), which indicate a revival of consumer spending in May.
The report noted that economists are increasingly seeking out timelier data to measure fast-changing economic conditions. Data on spending by TD clients, which is only about a week old, provides evidence of “a clear improvement” in consumer spending following the Easter weekend.
While spending was down by about 10% in May compared with the same month in 2019, this drop is much better than the 35% year-over-year decline that was evident in April, TD noted.
The report said that the data also include business account transactions, which indicate that business spending has been slower to recover.
“The picture painted by this data is so far encouraging: while spending is still a good distance below year-ago levels, the decline is well off the lows seen in April and has so far been trending in the right direction,” it said.
Given the lockdown, spending patterns have shifted, the report noted, as spending on groceries, gardening and home improvement rose, replacing travel and entertainment.
Additionally, spending trends largely reflected regional reopening. Provinces that have opened up the most have recorded the largest improvement in spending.
“It will take time to tell if this recovery has legs, particularly as government income supports begin to expire later this year,” the report noted.
Additionally, it cautioned that current spending may be overstated, due to a shift away from cash and toward cards due to Covid-19 concerns.
“For now, however,” the report concluded, “we can draw a cautiously optimistic conclusion that, if you open it, they will come.”