After easing restrictive lockdown measures over the summer, the coronavirus is surging again around the world and has already caused the most severe global economic contraction since at least the 1930s.

Economic activity had started to recover where lockdowns eased, but now faces headwinds from new restrictions as case counts climb. Because there is a lag of weeks to months between when official economic data is produced and the period of time it covers, it is out of date before it is published.

The FT is tracking the most relevant alternative indicators to provide an early view of changes in activity as they happen across key sectors and countries. As well as regular updates to the charts, new indicators will be added as they become available.


  • July 31: Added air traffic data from Flightradar24


Charts showing that in many countries, visits to entertainment and restaurant hubs have recovered

Household spending makes up the largest part of the economy in most countries, and the recovery largely depends on consumers regaining the confidence to increase spending from ultra-low levels.

Google Mobility data — which track footfall traffic — from retail and entertainment hubs is considered a proxy for consumer spending. It shows that after an initial uptick, fewer people are visiting crowded locations as case counts rise in many countries.

Chart of box office admissions across the world - Japan returns to pre-pandemic levels while other countries struggle to recover

Cinemas tell a similar story. After a gradual return, visits have again dropped off in many countries where confirmed cases of the virus have risen.


A series of charts showing job postings data, comparing job postings compared to the same week in 2019. In all countries shown - the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Australia, Brazil, India and Japan, postings remain well below 2019 levels, showing only modest signs of recovery from the bottom of the trend.

Official unemployment figures suffer from a lack of international comparability. However, other information can help shed light on the impact of the crisis — which has caused millions to lose their jobs or rely on government furlough schemes — on the employment market.


Charts showing the level of reservations, occupancy rates and revenue compared to the same week in 2019 (%)

Tourism was one of the sectors hit worst by the strict lockdowns and travel bans in March and April. Global arrivals are set to shrink by between 58 and 78 per cent year on year in 2020, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. The body estimates 100m-120m direct tourism jobs are at risk.

Charts showing level of reservations compared to the same week in 2019 (%)

As lockdowns eased and borders began to reopen across Asia and Europe, flight and hotel occupancy data showed international mobility slowly resuming. However, the latest data from suggest reservations have been hit by a resurgence of Covid-19 in many countries, with people remaining cautious about their future travel plans.

Line chart showing how commercial flight traffic for 2020 and 2021 remains well below equivalent periods in 2019

According to data published by Flightradar24 commercial air traffic volume in January was actually above the equivalent period of a year earlier. However numbers fell precipitously in late March and by early April were around a third of typical levels. Recovery has been slow, reflecting declines in both tourism and business travel during the crisis.

Reporting, data analysis and graphics by Steven BernardJohn Burn-Murdoch, Joanna S Kao, Emma LewisCaroline NevittAlan SmithCale Tilford, Keith Fray and Aleksandra Wisniewska. Edited by Adrienne Klasa

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