To assess economic activity closer to real-time, the Western Development Commission (WDC) has compiled a set of timely economic indicators. This indicator set is limited given the lack of detailed and frequently published official economic data at the county level.
To address this limitation the WDC provides supplementary ad-hoc reports based on less conventional sources. The first of which was based on Google Mobility data covering the period February to August 21st. The WDC has now compiled an update with mobility data up to November 11th and thus captures the first three weeks of the national Level 5 (L5) public health restrictions
The initial Google Mobility report noted strong regional variation with comparatively higher levels of mobility in WR & AEC. The most recent mobility trends suggest a strong “staycation” effect occurred during the summer months and that this abated from September. It is important to note that the end of the regional spike in mobility occurred before the enhanced public health restrictions and thus suggests a contraction in economic activity, likely related to tourism, even before the additional restrictions.
The Level 5 (L5) restrictions are less stringent than March and this is reflected in the mobility data. There has been a sharp decline in most categories, but mobility levels are higher than in March.
There has been an uptick in retail and recreation and grocery and pharmacy mobility during November. This should not be interpreted as non-compliance with the public health restrictions as those trends follow workplace trends. A plausible explanation is that an adjustment period occurred with some businesses closing for a short period before re-opening in compliance with L5.
Workplace mobility has declined following L5, although mobility levels are much higher than during March. The relatively minor changes in workplace mobility following L3 in Dublin and L3/L4 in the Border counties may be explained by the adaption to remote working.
Lydon & McGrath (2020) explain how the regional dynamics of the COVID-19 labour market shock are influenced by pre-COVID-19 employment patterns and structural factors. Those employment structures suggest the WR and AEC are comparatively more exposed to the negative labour market shock of COVID-19. The WR and AEC were found to have been hit comparatively harder by the initial COVID-19 shock. This regional labour market variation subsided through the summer reopening phases. However, in response to enhanced restrictions, pandemic unemployment claims have begun to rise again, and the early indications show that the increase in claims broadly follows the regional variation observed during the initial phase of restrictions. A worry for the WR and AEC is the length and severity of restrictions into the future given these trends.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the WDC