One sign that Americans are ready to resume taking normal social and economic risks is the rise in airline passenger traffic. Airline passenger volume in the United States is increasing again in a welcome signal that the economy is ready to recover.
About 1.1 million passengers per day are being processed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints as of the second week of March, slightly higher than the surge over the New Year holidays.
Early in the pandemic, we emphasized the use of alternative data such as road and transportation use or restaurant reservations as near real-time economic indicators of turns in the business cycle. Airline passenger traffic is another such indicator.
But as encouraging as these numbers are, they should be viewed in context. After all, volumes are still less than half of the 2.3 million passengers processed on an average day in 2019, and it may take months before a larger population is willing to pass through airport crowds and sit on an airplane for hours at a time.
Nevertheless, with the trend in vaccinations now implying that the U.S. will reach herd immunity by midsummer, this bodes well for what we think is going to be the strongest year in economic growth since the 1980s.
For more information on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting midsize businesses, please visit the RSM Coronavirus Resource Center.