Wednesday, October 20, 2021

COVID-19 impacts Oklahomans’ consumer spending, mobility, employment

The Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve of Kansas City released its latest issue of the quarterly publication the Oklahoma Economist.

At the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 affected Oklahomans’ consumer spending, mobility and employment. While consumer spending rebounded relatively quickly—boosted by government stimulus payments and online spending—the number of Oklahomans going to retail and recreation establishments steadily went down in the second half of 2020, according to Chad Wilkerson, branch executive, vice president and economist at the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

“While spending at restaurants and retail establishments plunged at the onset of the pandemic, many businesses quickly pivoted to online sales and to-go orders,” he said. “Overall accommodation and food service spending in Oklahoma consistently has outperformed the rest of the U.S. throughout the pandemic, and it has returned to pre-COVID levels in recent months.”

Wilkerson said in March 2020, some cities and governments instituted regulations to limit mobility and in -person gatherings to help contain the virus.

“Even though many statewide restrictions on business activities were lifted June 1, 2020, the number of people visiting retail and recreation establishments fell steadily from July through early 2021, as new COVID cases rose,” he said. “But the most recent data show that total in-person retail and recreation visits had rebounded to above pre-COVID levels by late March.”

According to Wilkerson, Oklahoma’s leisure, hospitality and retail jobs decreased less than the U.S. and have rebounded at a better rate, although jobs in the arts and entertainment subsector, in particular, remain well below year-ago levels.

“A full bounce back in employment for the leisure and hospitality sector likely will require increased mobility and foot traffic, which in turn will depend on the path of the virus and vaccinations,” he explained. “Since the vaccination roll-out of early 2021, new cases have dropped, and mobility and employment have trended upward again. The share of Oklahomans receiving COVID vaccines so far has outpaced the nation, but fewer Oklahomans than in the nation say that they plan to get vaccinated heading forward.”

The complete issue is available at www.kansascityfed.org/oklahomacity/oklahoma-economist.