This chart shows the link between restaurant spending and new cases of coronavirus

Key Points
  • JPMorgan analyzed data from 30 million Chase cardholders and Johns Hopkins University's case tracker and found that higher restaurant spending in a state predicted a rise in new infections there three weeks later.
  • In-person restaurant spending was "particularly predictive."
  • Conversely, higher spending at supermarkets predicted a slower spread of the virus.

In this article

Source: JPMorgan

Higher restaurant spending appears to be linked to a faster spread of the coronavirus, according to a JPMorgan study.

Analyst Jesse Edgerton analyzed data from 30 million Chase credit and debit cardholders and from Johns Hopkins University's case tracker. He found that increased restaurant spending in a state predicted a rise in new infections there three weeks later.

He also said restaurant spending was the strongest predictor across all categories of card spending.

The United States set a record for the single highest day of new infections on Wednesday. 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 with the year-earlier period, while the District of Columbia 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.

The National Restaurant Association said in a statement that it shares the nation's concern over rising Covid-19 cases.

"It is irresponsible to pin the rise on a single industry," the trade group said in a statement to CNBC. "Restaurants have historically operated with highly regulated safety protocols based on the FDA's Food Code and now have taken new steps to meet social distancing guidelines required by state and federal officials. We all have responsibility for wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing."

Edgerton also gave the caveat that the states that are now seeing a surge in new infections share other factors 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 said.

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