Monday, December 21, 2020

Happy Holidays!

 Demo Memo is taking a holiday break. See you on January 4, 2021. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

2020 Comes to a Close

The year 2020 is coming to a close. Although this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year is almost over, it will live in infamy as historians examine the many ways the pandemic has pummeled us. One of the best resources historians will have is the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey. Since late April, the bureau has surveyed households every week or two, probing the impact of the pandemic on Americans' wellbeing. Here are some of the latest findings, collected November 25-December 7.

Children's lives have been upended. Among adults in households with children in public or private school, 89 percent report that their child's classes in the 2020–21 school year are in a distance learning format.

College plans have been cancelled. Among adults in households where at least one adult was planning on taking postsecondary classes this fall, more than one-third cancelled their plans to take classes. 

Nearly half of Americans have lost money. Fully 48 percent of people aged 18 or older report that they or someone in their household experienced a loss of employment income since March 13, 2020. Thirty-one percent expect to lose employment income in the next four weeks.

Many are hungry. One in eight adults (13 percent) did not have enough to eat sometimes or often in the past seven days. Among adults in households with children, a larger 17 percent did not have enough to eat. 

Many are afraid to go to the doctor. One-third of Americans aged 18 or older have delayed getting medical care in the past four weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Worries about next month's rent. One-third of renters say they have only slight or no confidence in their ability to pay next month's rent. Among renters with children, the figure is 41 percent. 

Paying for usual household expenses is difficult for many. More than one-third of adults say they have found it somewhat or very difficult to pay for usual household expenses in the past seven days.

Restaurants are devastated. The 61 percent majority of Americans have avoided eating at restaurants in the past seven days. 

The year 2020 is coming to a close. Good riddance.

Source: Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, November 25-December 7

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A New Low in Geographic Mobility in 2020: 9.3%

There has been a lot of talk about the numbers of people who have moved because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Pew Research Center survey fielded in June, a substantial 22 percent of adults had relocated because of the pandemic or knew someone who had. An Upwork survey fielded in October found 14 to 23 million workers planning to move because remote work gave them the opportunity to live anywhere they choose. Those moves will boost migration in the United States, Upwork said.  

Nice try, but no cigar. Yesterday the Census Bureau released the official numbers on geographic mobility in 2020. The data are collected by the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC). The survey asks respondents, "Were you living in this house or apartment one year ago?" Only 9.3 percent said no—a record low geographic mobility rate.  

Percent of people aged 1 or older who lived in a different house or apartment one year ago
2019–20: 9.3% (record low)

2018–19: 9.8%

2017–18: 10.1%

2010–11: 11.6%

2000–01: 14.2%

There are a couple of reasons why the CPS ASEC did not capture coronavirus-related moves. One reason is timing. The Census Bureau fields the ASEC in March of each year. Perhaps March was too early in the pandemic to capture those moves. The second reason is response rates. In the turmoil during the early weeks of the pandemic, response rates to the March 2020 CPS were abnormally low, according to Census Bureau research. Pandemic movers may have been (almost certainly were) less likely to respond to the survey than those who stayed put. 

For whatever the reason, the geographic mobility figures from the 2020 CPS do not shed any light on pandemic-related moves. This time next year, the 2021 geographic mobility data will be released. Perhaps they will show the anticipated uptick in migration...unless all the pandemic movers return to their pre-pandemic homes by March 2021.

Source: Census Bureau, Geographic Mobility, 2019 to 2020

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Only 19% Answer Cellphone Calls from Unknown Numbers

Only 19 percent of Americans answer their cellphone to see who it is when called by an unknown number, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The 67 percent majority will not answer the phone but will check voicemail if left. A hardened 14 percent not only won't answer the phone, they won't even check any voicemail left by an unknown number. 

Percent who will not answer their cellphone if called by an unknown number
Aged 18 to 29: 74%
Aged 30 to 49: 81%
Aged 50 to 64: 84%
Aged 65-plus: 79%

Monday, December 14, 2020

Obesity Is Rising in Every Age Group

Just ahead of the holiday festivities, the National Center for Health Statistics has issued a report on trends in obesity by age. Do you think this is just a coincidence? Yes, of course it is. Nevertheless, perhaps a review of the trends will rein in the temptation to overindulge in these final days of a difficult year. 

If obesity were a mystery to be solved, then the trends presented by the NCHS report provide an important clue. The clue is this: it's happening across the board. No age group is immune. Obesity is surging among the young, the middle-aged, and the old. Take a look...

Percent obese by age, 1988–94 to 2017–18
        total       20-39   40-59     60-plus
2017-18          42.4%   40.0%    44.8%     42.8%
2007-08          33.7   30.7    36.2     35.1
1999-00          30.5   26.0    33.5     33.5
1988-94          22.9   17.7    27.9     23.7
Note: Obesity is defined as a body mass index at or above 30.0 kg/m²

The data used to calculate these numbers are collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey doesn't simply ask Americans how much they weigh—those self-reports would fall far short of reality. NHANES quantifies reality by dispersing mobile examination units around the country, from which trained health technicians measure the height and weight of a representative sample of the public. Over the past three decades, the survey's measurements show a doubling in the percentage of Americans who are obese among 20-to-39-year olds, a 61 percent increase among 40-to-59-year-olds and an 81 percent rise among people aged 60 or older. That's a lot of overindulging.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Seismic Shift in the Publishing Industry

Recent trends in the information publishing industry are not pretty—at least for workers in traditional publishing establishments. In the past four years, the book, magazine, and newspaper industries have shed a combined total of 104,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, jobs in internet publishing have increased by nearly the same amount...

Employment in the publishing industry, 2016 and 2020

   2nd quarter 2020  1st quarter 2016  numerical change percent change
Book        51,450       61,919      -10,469     -16.9%
Periodical        72,648       97,212      -24,564     -25.3%
Newspaper      111,615         180,313      -68,698     -38.1%
Internet      289,794     195,714       94,080       48.1%

Today, the 55 percent majority of publishing jobs are in internet publishing, up from just 37 percent in 2016.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Fewer Households in 2020

The number of households in the United States fell in 2020 for the first time in the history of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey household series dating back to 1960. The decline was small—a loss of just 128,000 households between March 2019 and March 2020—but even a small decline is significant. It marks the turmoil of the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, when many left their homes to join family and friends for what seemed at the time to be a short-lived disruption.

Usually, the number of households in the U.S. grows by more than 1 million a year. That has been the case in 41 of the past 70 years. The largest single-year gain was in 1980, when the number of households surged by 3.4 million. The smallest increase was in 2009—up by just 357,000 in the aftermath of the Great Recession. 

Households did not decline in every demographic segment, of course. Here are the segments with the biggest losses...

Householders under age 30: The number of households headed by people under age 30 fell by more than 1.2 million between 2019 and 2020—an 8 percent decline. Some of the shrinkage can be accounted for by college students living off campus who returned to their parents' home when college classes went online. (Students living in college-owned housing are already counted as living with their parents.) 

Single-person households: The number of people who live alone fell by 281,000 between March 2019 and March 2020. Almost the entire decline occurred among men who live alone, their number falling by 273,000 versus an 8,000 decline for women. Why the difference? Most women who live alone are aged 55 or older. Most men who live alone are under age 55. Because of the age difference, women who live alone are less likely to be college students and less likely than their male counterparts to be hurt by the Covid-19 Recession. 

Asian, Black, and Hispanic households: The number of households headed by Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics fell by a combined 332,000 between March 2019 and March 2020. Asian households saw the largest drop, with 128,000 fewer households in 2020—a 1.8 percent decline. The number of Black households fell by 113,000 and Hispanic households by 91,000. 

Source: Census Bureau, Historical Household Tables

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Not Wearing a Mask? 73% Are Mad at You

Many, many more Americans are angry about people not wearing a mask in public than are upset by stores requiring customers to wear masks, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Fully 73 percent of the public is bothered "a lot" or "some" when people do not wear masks in public places, Pew finds. So, if your goal is to goad, not wearing a mask is a good way to do it. 

Only 28 percent of the public is bothered "a lot" or "some" when stores require customers to wear masks. So, if you're a business trying to decide on the right thing to do, this is a no-brainer.

Percent bothered a lot/some when people around them in public places do not wear masks
Men: 69%
Women: 75%

Asians: 83%
Blacks: 80%
Hispanics: 76%
Non-Hispanic whites: 70%

Aged 18 to 29: 68%
Aged 30 to 49: 70%
Aged 50 to 64: 71%
Aged 65-plus: 81%

Democrats: 87%
Republicans: 55%

Monday, December 07, 2020

Slumping Revenues for Restaurants

The nation's small businesses are feeling the effects of the surge in coronavirus coupled with the onset of winter weather. More than one-third of all small businesses (38 percent) report a decline in operating revenues/sales/receipts in the past 7 days, according to the Small Business Pulse Survey fielded in the last week of November. Hurt the worst are small businesses in the accommodation and food service sector—such as restaurants. As of November 23-29, nearly two out of three (63.6 percent) reported a decline in revenue in the past 7 days.

It has been worse. Back in late April/early May, an even larger 74.6 percent of small businesses in the accommodation and food service sector reported lower revenues in the past 7 days. At the time, many states had ordered mandatory business closures as the first wave of coronavirus hit. Then things got better. Not only did the weather improve, but restaurants learned to adapt by shifting to takeout and offering outdoor dining. The percentage reporting a recent revenue decline fell to a low of 39.7 percent by the end of September. 

Since then, however, a growing share of restaurants and other businesses in the accommodation and food service sector are struggling. The percentage with falling revenues is surging as cold weather and renewed fears of widespread contagion drive customers away. The 63.9 percent reporting a recent revenue decline during the week of November 23-29 is approaching the spring peak. 

Percent of small businesses in the accommodation and food service sector reporting a decline in operating revenue/sales/receipts in the past 7 days, for selected weeks
63.6 percent: November 23-29 (3rd highest)
61.9 percent: November 16-22
50.5 percent: November 9-15
39.7 percent: September 27-October 3 (low point)
69.5 percent: May 3-9 (2nd highest)
74.6 percent: April 26-May 2 (peak)

Source: Census Bureau, Small Business Pulse Survey

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Americans Pull Back on Spending

This year's Black Friday is being called Bleak Friday by some retail analysts, with brick and mortar stores relatively empty and holiday sales below expectations. The number of Black Friday shoppers at retail stores this year was 37 percent below the 2019 level, and holiday spending from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday was 14 percent lower than last year, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal

This underwhelming start to the holiday season was predicted by the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey fielded in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (November 11-23). The survey asked Americans aged 18 or older whether their household spending/shopping behavior had changed in the past seven days. With Covid surging across the country, only 19 percent of the public said they had not changed the way they shopped. Here are some of changes in the shopping behavior of the 81 percent majority...

Changes to spending/shopping behavior in past seven days 
Made more purchases online: 53%
Made more purchases by curbside pickup: 27%
Made more purchases in-store: 8%

Increased use of credit cards or smartphone apps for purchases: 39%
Increased use of cash instead of credit cards or smartphones for purchases: 5%

Avoided eating at restaurants: 58%
Resumed eating at restaurants: 7%

The resurgence of coronavirus could not be happening at a worse time. Holiday spending, on which many businesses depend for the bulk of their revenue, is being constrained by the public's fear of Covid-19. 

Source: Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey Week 19 (November 11–November 23)

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Misperceptions Hamper Planning for Long-Term Care

Nearly half of middle-aged and older Americans believe something that isn't true. No, this story isn't about QAnon. It's about long-term care. Fully 47 percent of people aged 40 or older believe Medicare—the government's health insurance program for people aged 65-plus—covers long-term care services such as nursing homes, according to an AARP survey. Medicare does not cover these services. The misperception that Medicare does cover them may be why so few have made plans for long-term care needs as they age, suggests AARP.  

Only 40 percent of Americans aged 40-plus have set aside money for care in their future, the survey finds. An even smaller 28 percent have researched community-based services, 26 percent have researched in-home care options, and just 22 percent have purchased long-term care insurance.

With so few preparing for potential long-term care needs, what do middle-aged and older Americans think will happen if and when they need it?  Hey kids, listen up! The 64 percent majority want their family to help out—either doing all the heavy lifting or in combination with paid help. Here are the long-term care settings preferred by the 40-plus population...  

Preferred care setting if long-term care is needed
41% prefer a combination of family help and paid help at home
23% prefer only family help at home
17% prefer a nurse to provide care at home
11% prefer care in a residential apartment-like setting
  6% prefer care in a nursing home

Although 64 percent of middle-aged and older Americans want their family to help care for them, only 47 percent have discussed these preferences with their family. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Crushing Job Losses in Leisure and Hospitality

In the state of Idaho, jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry inched up by 0.5 percent between October 2019 and October 2020. That's the good news—the only good news. In every other state, leisure and hospitality jobs fell during the year ending in October 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to the industry, which is comprised of businesses offering accommodation (hotels and motels), food services (restaurants and bars), arts, entertainment and recreation (performing arts, spectator sports, museums, historical sites, casinos, amusement parks). 

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia had fewer leisure and hospitality industry jobs in October 2020 than they had one year earlier. In 44 states, the job decline was in the double digits. Hawaii saw the steepest plunge, with a 49.6 percent decrease in jobs. New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, and the District of Columbia all experienced declines of greater than 30 percent. Only Montana, Kentucky, Wyoming, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi registered year-over-year job declines of less than 10 percent. 

As the coronavirus pandemic swept the country last spring, jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry nationally fell by a stunning 47 percent—from 16.1 million in March to just 8.5 million in April. In every month since April, however, the industry has regained jobs. But the 13.4 million leisure and hospitality jobs of October 2020 were still 20 percent short of the 16.7 million in October 2019.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Leisure and Hospitality Employment in Hawaii Down 49.6 Percent for Year Ended October 2020