Are Businesses Getting Back to Work? Here’s What We Know

Even during times of record unemployment rates, we are seeing early signs of hope for the workforce

Wed May 06 2020 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Last week, the CEO of Auto Data Processing (ADP), Carlos Rodriguez, had this to say about the disconnect between rising stock prices and record unemployment losses: “I think what might be happening is [investors] may be already anticipating the worst may have been behind us.”

And this week, the construction of non-essential projects in states and regions like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and the San Francisco Bay Area were allowed to resume operations. The CDC even relaxed restrictions for those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 about going back to work – a move that has been criticized by some. The new guidance will allow asymptomatic people who have been exposed to the virus to go back to work as long they take their temperature twice a day, practice physical distancing, and wear a face mask.

As businesses, administrations, and industries work to restart the economy, we wonder: are these the first signs of a re-burgeoning workforce, or simply false prophecies? Let’s unpack what we know.

Photo credit: US News & World Report

Drone Data Usage Trending Up

Since April, DroneDeploy has seen signals of recovery in industrial sectors. We’ve witnessed an uptick in map views, exports, and uploads. As we waded through the pandemic, we saw a severe dip in drone usage across almost every major industry, but recently that usage has been trending up.

DroneDeploy usage across Construction users since January

We believe those in the agriculture industry are likely gearing up for the growing season, with many of these employees deemed “essential workers.” At the same time, employees in the construction industry are continuing to monitor decommissioned job sites or other projects that had previously been put on hold.

The metric, drone takeoffs, is an especially crucial indicator of economic activity for industries that develop, build, and manage fields, terrain, and capital assets. Weekly data shows consecutive weeks of growth in takeoffs in agriculture, construction, surveying, and energy. Operations are nowhere near what they were pre-pandemic, but this data could suggest the first steps being taken to getting back to work.

Source: Gartner

Unemployment Concerns

Still, the concerns about the unemployment rate in America are ever-rising. According to a new Gartner survey from late April, consumer fears about unemployment rates have evolved since early March, rising to the top-10 of consumers’ concerns. And anxieties about the U.S. economy has remained a steady unease week-over-week.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

But even in these times of uncertainty, businesses are continuing to spend money on their projects and invest in their operations. According to the United States Census Bureau, construction spending during March 2020 estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,360 billion, 0.9% above the revised February estimate of $1,348 billion. What’s more, during the first three months of 2020, construction spending amounted to $297.0 billion, 6.7% above the $278.5 billion for the same period in 2019.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

And while the unemployment rate still surpassed the 3 million mark last week, the tiniest of silver linings show there has been a decrease in claims over the past three weeks. We confess it’s troubling to see 4.4 million Americans file initial unemployment claims in the week ending April 18, but that’s actually down from 5.2 million the week prior, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

DroneDeploy usage across all DD users since January.

Looking Ahead

Is this the end of the crisis? Far from it. But we believe these figures suggest a return to some work. Admittedly, though, the specifics of that organization remains to be seen. We also anticipate investment in technology for improved communication and collaboration across teams scattered in fields and job sites – as well as corporate offices and home offices.

We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but as business returns to some sort of normalcy, we’re hopeful this data points to a path of recovery.  


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