3 charts show how the US economy roared back to life in April

Indoor dining nyc reopen covid
A waiter delivers food to a table at Chelsea Square Restaurant as New York City restaurants open for limited capacity indoor dining on October 1, 2020 in New York. BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images
  • The US economic recovery is firing on all cylinders, and a handful of charts detail where it’s showing up.
  • Reopening and new stimulus boosted restaurant dining and hotel occupancy in recent months.
  • Online job ads have handily surpassed pandemic-era levels as firms prepare for an influx of demand.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US economy is barreling toward a full rebound.

Traditional gauges of spending, business growth, and hiring are flashing their most optimistic readings since the pandemic first roiled the US. Wall Street banks are calling for a blowout GDP report on Thursday. And widespread vaccination suggests the country can fully reopen this summer.

Yet a collection of less closely watched indicators reveal how the recovery is showing up in Americans’ day-to-day lives. As the country pushes toward a new sense of normalcy, the industries and activities that froze up more than one year ago are starting to thaw.

Here are three charts from the UBS Evidence Lab detailing the recovery and how the country is charging toward some pre-pandemic norms.

A revival for restaurants

UBS
Source: UBS Evidence Lab

Restaurants were among the businesses hit hardest by the pandemic when lockdowns began in March 2020. Outdoor seating options and a surge in delivery helped somewhat, but winter weather and persistent COVID-19 concerns led to a plunge in restaurant dining.

More than half of that decline has since been reversed, and the rate of improvement seems to be picking up, according to a UBS note citing Open Table data. Stimulus, warmer weather, and accelerated vaccination fueled stronger consumer spending last month, and that healthy trend seems to be continuing through April.

The rebound stands to accelerate further into the summer. Business restrictions remain in place in many densely populated metropolitan areas. Continued vaccination and a decline in daily COVID-19 case counts can provide restaurants yet another traffic boost.

(Finally) Getting out of the house

UBS
Source: UBS Evidence Lab

In a similar vein, hotels are seeing an uptick in reservations after a faltering recovery last year.

Travel restrictions weighed heavily on hotels last year, helping establish the leisure and hospitality industry as the biggest loser of the pandemic recession. Now, with Americans itching to get out of the house, such firms are enjoying a strong pickup in occupancy. Data from UBS’s lodging team shows occupancy surging through the first quarter as travel resumes.

To be sure, business isn’t yet booming. Occupancy remains below 2019 levels, and the pace of recovery is similar to that seen last summer. Should vaccination hit snags or a new strain of the coronavirus spread rampantly, the industry could repeat the steady decline seen late last year.

Hiring as fast as possible

UBS
Source: UBS Evidence Lab

While business activity in certain sectors and cities hasn’t completely rebounded yet, firms are bracing for a pickup in demand.

Online ads for job openings are now at the highest they’ve been since at least 2019, and handily so. The trend corroborates government data that shows openings climbing through February as the nationwide reopening sped up.

While encouraging, the trend could also be a result of new obstacles facing the labor market’s recovery. Businesses from McDonald’s to Uber have reported hitting snags in hiring workers despite the economy still being down 8 million payrolls since the pandemic began. Such worker shortages could hinder the nationwide recovery and drive persistently elevated unemployment.

Bank of America’s economists aren’t too concerned. The team led by Michelle Meyer said Friday that the unusual shortage was likely driven by fresh stimulus, fear of catching the coronavirus, and home-schooling demands for working couples. The dynamic will fade by early 2022 and be replaced by more “traditional” worker shortages caused by a hot labor market, the economists said.