Plenty of data show the country was still mired in a severe downturn in April and May, with overall business activity falling and layoffs rising—though more slowly than in the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis. Current projections have the economy contracting by 6% to 7% this year and unemployment lingering in double-digit percentages for a while. But, for the first time since the pandemic forced widespread U.S. business closures in March, it appears conditions in some corners of the economy aren’t getting worse, and might even be improving.
“If this is the only wave [of coronavirus], it looks like we’ve bottomed out and the normalization process has begun,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at S&P Global Ratings.
Spending on hotels, restaurants, airlines and other industries hurt by social distancing remains low, but appears to be picking up. The number of travelers passing through Transportation Security Administration security screening checkpoints fell to 87,534 on April 14, 96% below the same day a year earlier. But by May 24, the figure had more than tripled to 267,451, although that is still down 87% from the same day a year earlier. Meanwhile, data from online restaurant-booking company OpenTable shows diners are beginning to return in several states.