Some of the other new data points show similar changes. “They all pretty consistently tell us the same story, which is that things were improving for two months from mid April to mid June, and then started to move sideways,” said Aneta Markowska, Jefferies chief financial economist. GPS data from Google Global Mobility and restaurant data from the reservation company Open Table are considered the two other main sources of alternative high-frequency data next to Homebase, she said.

Other real-time indicators the Fed is using include job postings from Indeed, local and national transportation data, as well as mobility and foot traffic from the geospatial data company Safegraph.

The use of high-frequency data has also allowed economists to measure how the pandemic is affecting different sectors of the population. An analysis of Safegraph data by the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed workers with less education and in lower-income positions were more affected by social distancing policies and were much more likely to lose their employment compared to high-income and college-educated workers.

Economists are still figuring out how the high-frequency data sets fit in with more traditional economic indicators. “All of it is so new that we really don’t have enough history to determine the relationship between alternative data and government data,” Markowska said.

In the meantime, the frequency and variety of the new data sources are allowing economists to gauge in real time how the economy is reacting to changes, such as economic stimulus funds or the spike in coronavirus cases.

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