Higher restaurant spending appears to be linked to a faster spread of the coronavirus, according to a new research note from J.P. Morgan.
Analyst Jesse Edgerton analyzed data from 30 million Chase credit and debit cardholders and from Johns Hopkins University’s case tracker. He found that the level of spending at restaurants three weeks ago was the strongest predictor — across all categories of card spending — of the rise in new cases in that state over the next three weeks.
The United States set a record for the single highest day of new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday and then set a new record on Thursday. States in the South and West, including California, Texas and Florida, are seeing a surge of new cases and hospitalizations related to the virus.
According to the research note, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arizona showed the smallest relative declines in restaurant spending by Chase cardholders compared to the year-ago period, while Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts saw the sharpest drops.
Edgerton said in-person restaurant spending was “particularly predictive.”
The NPD Group found that transactions for the week ended June 14 were still improving at full-service chain restaurants in Arizona, California and Florida, even as those states reported spikes in new cases. The full-service segment was hardest hit by dining room closures and has taken the longest to recover.
Edgerton also gave the caveat that the states that are now seeing a surge in new Covid-19 cases share other traits outside of higher restaurant spending.
Conversely, higher spending at supermarkets predicts a slower spread of the virus, which could indicate that states that buy more groceries are more mindful of social distancing measures.
“For example, as of three weeks ago, supermarket spending was up 20% or more from last year’s levels in New York and New Jersey, while it was up less than 10% in Texas and Arizona,” Edgerton wrote.