Eric Griffin, Managing Director, Research & Innovation

New data published by a team of Harvard economists shows that consumer spending in the Dallas Region is steadily returning to pre-pandemic levels after a precipitous decline beginning in mid-March of this year. Consumer behavior is widely viewed as a key indicator for assessing the health of the economy.

Harvard Professor of Public Economics Raj Chetty and his colleagues at Opportunity Insights analyzed debit and credit card transactions to explore how communities and retail sectors have been impacted by changes in individual purchasing behavior. The Dallas Region has tracked closely with the U.S. average decline and recovery in spending.

Findings show that retail spending plummeted shortly after a national emergency was declared on March 13, 2020. The Dallas Region bottomed out at 38% below normal spending levels at the beginning of April, gradually increasing to 15% below normal as of June 10, 2020. Consumer spending in Fort Worth hit a low of 34% below pre-pandemic levels, and now sits at 10% below normal. By comparison, the overall spending rate for the U.S. is currently 11% below normal levels. The DRC’s latest edition of Economy in Brief explores how consumer behavior has varied widely among retail sectors.

View the full report: Economy in Brief: Indicators for the Dallas Region

In other news, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Dallas Region saw a decline in year-over-year employment for the second month in a row (April 2019-April 2020; May 2019-May 2020). There were fewer jobs in Dallas in May 2020, a 6.0% drop compared to May 2019. This follows a 7.6% year-over-year decline in April, hinting that the worst of the pandemic-related job losses may have passed.

The Texas Workforce Commission published similarly hopeful unemployment data. The preliminary, non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the Dallas Region was 12.3% in May, down 0.5 percentage points from April. This follows the unexpected drop in the U.S. unemployment rate from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May. The Texas unemployment rate is 13.0%.

“Economy in Brief: Indicators for the Dallas Region” is an ongoing series, presented by Bank of America, that offers easily digestible insights into our economic landscape. The data points and analysis tools allow our business community to make informed decisions based on trends. Our reporting also measures the impact of COVID-19 on our economy.