Google data lets you have a peek into Indian economy


India’s economy is struggling to overcome the adverse hit from the world’s biggest lockdown, a series of high-frequency indicators show.

From power consumption to jobs to Google’s mobility trends, the figures show activity has picked up from the record slump registered in April, but the recovery has a long way to go.

In the absence of official figures, economists are increasingly turning to alternative data sets to get a better sense of how Asia’s third-largest economy is coping with the pandemic.

Here’s a look at some of the key high-frequency indicators.

■ Stringency Index: The Oxford Stringency Index for India collects publicly available information on 17 indicators of government responses to the pandemic. After declining slightly at the beginning of June, the index has been relatively flat around 76 for most of the month. Bloomberg Economics’ Abhishek Gupta sees only a marginal easing in the index going forward.

■ Power Consumption: Electricity consumption is a widely used proxy to gauge demand in India’s industrial and manufacturing sectors. The figures show a sharp slump in demand for power after the lockdown was imposed, and a slow comeback since then.

Demand flattened during the week ended June 28, and was down 7.4 percent from a year earlier, marginally higher than the 7.3 percent drop in the prior week.

■ Jobless Rate: In the immediate aftermath of the lockdown, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimated 122 million jobs were lost and the unemployment rate hit more than 27 percent. After declining steadily since then, the latest data shows the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.9 percent in the week ended July 5 from 8.6 percent in the prior week.

■ Google Mobility: This tracker is turning out to be a favorite for many economists.

The latest data shows that as the lockdown has lifted, the improvement in workplace mobility has been uneven. While there’s been a pickup since April, the average was still 30.4 percent below the baseline in the first half of June, according to Garima Kapoor, an economist at Elara Securities Pvt Ltd.

■ Retail Spending: The number of consumers visiting retail stores surged in June from the previous month as retailers slowly began reopening, according to data from ShopperTrak. But compared with a year earlier, footfalls are still down more than 90 percent, according to the data. ShopperTrak’s index is based on inputs from collection devices in the retail marketplace and shopper visits.