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U.S. Economy

About the MEI

As the human and economic toll from the COVID-19 pandemic mounts, near-term forecasts of output and employment are crucial for assessing appropriate monetary, fiscal and health policy responses. An appropriate real-time index of mobility can provide valuable real-time insight into the economic impact.

Economic forecasts typically rely on recent monthly or quarterly data on economic activity. These data are usually available several weeks, or even months, after the period in question. Such delays are crippling. In mid-March, it became clear there was an acute need for real-time measurement of the rapid slowdown in economic activity.

A key driver of the slowdown was an increase in mobility—how often people leave their homes, how far they travel and how long they are out—in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Many businesses sharply curtailed, or even ceased, operations due to government-mandated closures, concern for the health of workers or a lack of business, as consumers avoided social interaction and stayed home.

To gain insight into the economic impact of the pandemic, we developed the Dallas Fed Mobility and Engagement Index, based on geolocation data collected from a large sample of mobile devices.

MEI Authors

The MEI was developed by Tyler Atkinson, business economist; Jim Dolmas, senior research economist; Christoffer Koch, senior research economist; Evan Koenig, senior vice president; Karel Mertens, senior economic policy advisor; Anthony Murphy, senior economic policy advisor; and Kei-Mu Yi, senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.