Wealth Planning

What big data says now about household spending—and more

To better inform policy and decision makers, JPMorgan Chase Institute offers analyses of the firm’s data.


Understanding the challenges households and small businesses face is key to helping them, and the broader economy, recover from COVID-19's impact.

To help policy makers, the JPMorgan Chase Institute—our economic think tank dedicated to providing insights for the public good—studies the finances of U.S. households and small businesses. Two recently released reports offer big data insights:

  • The Initial Household Spending Response to COVID-19: Evidence from Credit Card Transactions
  • A Cash Flow Perspective on the Small Business Sector

 

Household spending report

Consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP, so it’s critical to understand the magnitude and causes of changes in consumption to help inform policy interventions aimed at accelerating an economic recovery.

On May 14, 2020, the JPMorgan Chase Institute released the first in a series of insights investigating the financial impact of COVID-19 using real-time, de-identified data. The first insight examines changes in household credit card spending through April 11, 2020, and how this varies by household income and industry of employment.

This insight addresses two main questions:

  • How much has household spending fallen, and how does this drop vary across households?
  • How much of the spending decline was likely caused by the nearly ubiquitous pandemic and policies intended to contain it versus the initial round of income losses during that period?

Importantly, the findings note that while we know from unemployment insurance claims that jobs were lost in March and April, it is unlikely that the income supports extended by the government in response to COVID-19 would have been received by the end of the time series studied—the second week of April.

 

Household spending—key findings

Overall, the research found that, as of the second week of April 2020, the significant drop in spending appeared to be driven largely by the pandemic and social distancing policies implemented across the country to prevent its spread, and to a lesser extent, by initial income losses. However, as the pandemic unfolds the balance of factors contributing to spending behavior could change dramatically.

The four key findings:

  1. Average household credit card spending had fallen by 40% year-over-year by the end of March 2020.
  2. Spending on essentials initially spiked 20% before falling to below pre-pandemic levels, while spending on non-essentials declined by 50% and accounted for nearly all of the total spending decline.
  3. Spending dropped substantially for households across the entire income distribution, with slightly larger drops for higher-income households.
  4. Spending dropped dramatically for workers in all industries of employment.

 

Small business report

The most recent update to our five-year research into the small business sector was released in May 2020.

The analysis looks at de-identified transaction and account summary data from over one million small businesses with a Chase business deposit account. The data corresponds to the universe of both employer and non-employer businesses—and provides unprecedented views of high-frequency cash flows in the small business sector.

These analyses have generated three consistent and cross-cutting insights:

  • The small business sector makes important contributions to the real economy through revenue generation and revenue growth.
  • Small businesses operate in an environment of irregular cash flows against limited cash liquidity.
  • While small businesses have the potential to contribute to broad-based growth, meaningful differences in outcomes by owner gender, age and community characteristics limit the contributions and resilience of many firms in the sector.
A thriving small business sector is an indicator of a strong economy, but the sector can also be severely impacted by economic downturns.

Potential policy implications

Based on this in-depth look at the small business data, policy makers seeking to drive overall economic growth in the small business sector should consider:

  • The small business sector’s high degree of heterogeneity.
  • Policies that boost cash liquidity and support small businesses in developing and maintaining a cash buffer, which may allow firms to better weather financial shocks such as COVID-19.
  • Targeting small businesses on the basis of the age and gender of their owners to help ensure that growth in the sector impacts the widest range of businesses, owners and households.
  • Place-based policies that recognize the characteristics of communities and the relationship between a community and the city in which it is located.

 

Learn more

Read the full JPMorgan Chase Institute reports below:

We also invite you to reach out to your J.P. Morgan team if you have any questions.

 

About the JPMorgan Chase Institute

The mission of the JPMorgan Chase Institute is to help decision makers—policy makers, businesses and nonprofit leaders—appreciate the scale, granularity, diversity and interconnectedness of the global economic system, and use timely data and thoughtful analysis to make more informed decisions that advance prosperity for all.

 

 

 

 

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