If suitcases are a leading economic indicator, the US economy will improve.
Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis drew data on the eve of the spring break to see if consumer spending had reached pre-pandemic levels. He looked at hotels, airlines, overseas travel, restaurants, amusement parks, movies, concerts, sports, tours and luggage.
So far, only suitcase purchases and dining have fully recovered. Other categories, including movies, concerts and theme parks, still run at about 50%, Lehner says.
“Next week is Spring Break here in Oregon,” Lehner wrote further his blog. “It’s the first in a few years that can actually feel like Spring Break. COVID cases and hospitalizations are low, the masks are off if you will, and household finances remain strong.”
In short, there is an accumulated demand for fun. And people who buy luggage are probably getting ready to buy airline tickets.
Many of the figures Lehner mentions are national. To get a gem on local conditions, he looked to the Oregon Department of Transportation. The agency’s traffic counts show that driving is back to where it was in the pre-COVID era.
“For much of the last couple of years, driving behavior was just a little lower than it had been, but that hole seems to be closed,” Lehner wrote. “Oregon has a slightly larger population today than it did a few years ago, so on a per capita basis, driving is declining slightly.”
The number of passengers shows that travel to Oregon’s regional airports has fully recovered, but the numbers at PDX have still fallen by 20% to 30%, probably because business travel remains weak, Lehner says. One last indicator at the state level: Travel Oregon says hotel occupancy outside the Portland area is above pre-pandemic numbers.
The question is whether the virus remains in check. This week brought news that a sub-variant of Omicron called BA.2 is spreading in Europe, which like the US has dropped pandemic restrictions. Germany recorded its highest level of infections since the pandemic began on Wednesday: 1,607 new cases per year. 100,000 people over seven days, according to The Guardian.
So go ahead and buy the suitcase, but maybe take it to Hawaii instead of Berlin.