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As more people are vaccinated and local economies reopen this summer with the lifting of capacity restrictions and mask mandates, Yelp data reveals that Americans are eager to return to normal.
The period marking the onset of the pandemic - March, April and May of 2020 - was characterized by a sharp decline in consumer activity across most business sectors as people were directed to stay at home. To understand how the recovery is taking shape in 2021, Yelp's data scientists used the same period in 2019 as a baseline to provide a percentage of recovery after the pandemic driven declines in 2020.
Consumer interest - measured by counting a few of the many actions people take to connect with businesses on Yelp: viewing business pages or posting photos or reviews - demonstrates how people are engaging with local businesses, in turn providing insight into how the economy is recovering. During a time when labor shortages and rising commodity prices paint a hazy portrait of the overall health of the economy, Yelp's consumer interest data provides unique insight into the types of businesses, states and cities that have recovered the most by analyzing millions of data points across more than 1,200 categories in all 50 states.
From an initial dip at the onset of the pandemic, consumer interest in several major categories including restaurants, shopping and travel points to a healthy recovery for local economies.
Americans are returning to in-person dining at restaurants driving a record number of diners seated via Yelp at a time when the industry as a whole is struggling to attract workers. After a significant drop in March through May 2020, during the same period in 2021, restaurants have bounced back to 86% of 2019 levels and food businesses recovered to 92%.
Shared food experiences have made a comeback as people return to in-person dining. Conveyor belt sushi (recovered to 97% of 2019 levels), tapas (recovered to 82%), hot pot (recovered to 75%), dim sum (recovered to 84%), and buffets (recovered to 52%) have all begun to rebound in 2021.
While many consumers are returning to their favorite restaurants, not all are ready to give up the comfort of eating at home. Consumer interest in personal chefs and food delivery services have both grown beyond pre-pandemic levels in March through May 2021, recovered to 138% and 189% of the same period in 2019, respectively.
As is common in times of economic downturn many consumers tightened their spending at the onset of the pandemic. After more than a year of reduced spending, Americans now have the highest level of personal savings since the 1960s making it feasible for them to return to in-store shopping as local economies reopen. Consumer interest in shopping has almost fully recovered - reaching 92% of March through May 2019 levels, during the same period in 2021.
Clothing sales dropped to record lows during the pandemic as more Americans remained home and had less of a need to renew their wardrobes in the absence of in-person gatherings and an increase in remote work. But that sentiment is starting to shift marked by the return to in-person shopping. Shoes (recovered to 79% of 2019 levels), jewelry (recovered to 88%) and clothing categories including women's, men's and children's (each recovered to 76%) all recovered to near 2019 levels. In March through May 2021, antiques (recovered to 100%), flea markets (recovered to 94%), vintage shops (recovered to 87%), and thrift stores (recovered to 101%) all reached close to or above 2019 consumer interest levels.
As many Americans spend more time at home, demand for home and local services continues to surge. In March through May of 2021, home and local services continued to experience robust demand with consumer interest at 99% of 2019 levels during the same period.
Whether looking to take advantage of low interest rates or adapting to the need for more space to work from home, consumers are continuing to seek out home services professionals at high levels. Consumer interest in 2021 suprassed 2019 levels for carpenters (recovered to 151%), handymen (recovered to 147%), drywall (recovered to 147%), refinishing (recovered to 133%), and tiling (recovered to 132%). Additionally, fueled by the housing market in 2021, consumer interest increased above pre-pandemic levels for real estate agents (recovered to 104%), mortgage brokers (recovered to 105%), and home inspectors (recovered to 106%).
For many Americans a return to normal may mean a return to the office. In March through May of 2021, shoe repair and watch repair services recovered to 77% and 99% of 2019 levels. Many need to adapt their caregiving needs as they prepare to return to the office - demonstrated through childcare recovering to 71% of 2019 levels. A spike in pet adoption early in the pandemic has also created demand for pet care - consumer interest for pet sitting (recovered to 114%) and pet boarding (recovered to 121%) now both exceed 2019 levels.
The pandemic shifted demand in the auto sector at a time when supply chain constraints have resulted in fewer new cars being manufactured. However - March through May of 2021 - consumer interest for automotive services continued to experience robust demand at 106% of 2019 levels during the same period.
With many consumers opting for road trips and spending more time outside of cities with mass transit hubs, demand for auto services is rising. Consumer interest in March through May of 2021 for RV dealers (recovered to 125%), motorcycle dealers (recovered to 126%), and used car dealers (recovered to 110%) have all surpassed 2019 levels during the same period. Auto maintenance categories including, RV repair (recovered to 142%) motorcycle repair (recovered to 125%) and auto repair (recovered to 105%) are all above 2019 levels.
The states that have recovered the most in March through May of 2021 when compared to the 2019 pre-pandemic baseline include - Wyoming, Idaho, and South Dakota (all recovered to 110%). Several states with fewer restrictions also showed significant signs of recovery such as Florida (recovered to 98%), Georgia (recovered to 91%), and Texas (recovered to 91%). Meanwhile, the least recovered areas include: Washington, DC (recovered to 54%), New York (recovered to 63%) and Massachuscetts (recovered to 71%), which all have densely populated metropolitan areas with large public transit hubs and some of the most cautious rollbacks of pandemic restrictions.
Consumer Interest on Yelp in March - May 2021, relative to 2019
Some states saw significant recovery within specific business categories, typically depending on local regulations and policies, but also driven by varied regional interests. California's most recovered categories are pets (recovered to 118% of 2019 levels), food (recovered to 95%), and auto (recovered to 94%). Florida, Texas, and New York's most recovered categories are home services (recovered to 121%, 110%, and 91%), pets (recovered to 117%, 113%, and 102%), and auto (recovered to 115%, 110%, and 112%). Colorado's most recovered categories include, auto (recovered to 110%), home services (recovered to 107%), and local services (recovered to 101%) and Indiana's most recovered were home services (recovered to 122%), shopping (recovered to 107%), and food (recovered to 92%).
The most recovered cities compared to pre-pandemic spring 2019, include Kill Devil Hills, NC (recovered to 138%), Jackson, WY (recovered to 132%), Vineyard Haven, MA (recovered to 113%), and St. George, UT (recovered to 137%). Among the least recovered cities are more populous metros - New York City (recovered to 65%), New Orleans (recovered to 67%), Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN (recovered to 72%), as well as San Francisco and Oakland (recovered to 75%).
Consumer Interest on Yelp in March - May 2021, relative to 2019
The 20 Most Recovered Metros
The 20 Least Recovered Metros
Several metro areas known for being seasonal getaway hotspots have recovered beyond 2019 levels as Americans took advantage of remote working and opted to leave populous cities for less populous towns. Recovery from March through May 2019 was evident in the same period in 2021 in the metro areas centered around Key West, FL (recovered to 120%), Napa, CA (recovered to 112%), Ocean City (Jersey Shore), NJ (recovered to 115%), South Padre Island in Harlingen, TX (recovered to 129%), and Hilton Head, SC (recovered to 116%).
As state and local governments race to meet President Biden's goal of 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4th, we expect to see consumer interest in local businesses continue to evolve. Keep an eye out for the upcoming Q2 Yelp Economic Average report in July for more insights on changes to the local economy.
- Jessica Mouras and Carl Bialik contributed to this report.
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Consumer Interest Action Share Percent Change Over Time
As a method of measuring how consumer interest has rebounded during the spring of 2021, Yelp aggregated consumer actions during three periods to show the decline and rebound of consumer interest across categories and geographic locations: 1) pre-pandemic: March through May 2019, 2) the onset of the pandemic: March through May 2020, and 3) the start of recovery: March through May 2021. The 2019 pre-pandemic period is used as the baseline and the data has been normalized into percentages where the 2019 pre-pandemic level is 100%. Values are referred to as a percentage of 2019 levels (the pre-pandemic baseline).
We measure consumer interest, in terms of U.S. counts of a few of the many actions people take to connect with businesses on Yelp: viewing business pages, posting photos, or reviews.
Downloadable static graphics can be found here.
See Yelp's previous Coronavirus Economic Impact Reports at our Data Science Medium, Locally Optimal.