This week, we released our latest data release, 2020B. As we work through these unprecedented times, our data has evolved and changed just as our world is. From new database releases, free data offerings, and changes to our existing data, here is a look at AGS’ changes for the 2020B release.

Unemployment Data

Since the start of the pandemic, AGS has been tackling unemployment data head on. As you can see from the maps below, the U.S. went from historic lows at the end of February and peaked at levels not seen in decades just two months later. We are now down to an unemployment rate twice what it was at the start of the year, but well below the peak in May.

The important thing that we have seen is that rates are diverging at a state and local level – they all rose and peaked at about the same time, but in many states they have fallen to just above their February starting points. In other states, they dropped more slowly and have either risen in the last few weeks or remained stable.

New Data

As we have previewed in the last few months, the AGS data team has been hard at work on two new databases for the 2020B release. The first is the Non-Resident Population. On any given night in a normal year, upwards of nine million people are found in hotels, second homes, the homes of friends and family, in recreational vehicles, or camping. The impact of the non-resident population on a site – restaurant or retail – can be substantial, often proving to be the difference of locational success and failure. AGS’ new Non-Resident Population database, which includes annual and quarterly estimate of where those tourists can be found, bridges an important gap in the analytical toolbox of site analysts.

The second new database is an addition to our environmental risk lineup. Wildfires are an annual major risk in most areas of the western United States, and while large fires often burn in the rugged and generally unpopulated mountainous areas, the combination of dry conditions, heat, and winds can often lead to major disasters along what is known as the wildland-urban interface.

In 2018, a particularly devastating year in California, over $13 billion in insurance claims were filed. Overall, a recent report (NIST Special Publication 1215: The Costs and Losses of Wildfires, 2017) estimated the annual cost of wildfires to range from $63 and $285 billion.

Based on models produced by the United States Forest Service (G.K. Dillon, Wildfire Hazard Potential (WHP) for the Coterminous United States, 2018), the core index shows the relative risk of wildfires at the block level of geography. Hawaii and Alaska have been modeled using similar techniques.

We are excited about the new databases, and how they can and will be used by many of our data partners and their clients in the future.

Income Impacts

The impacts on income are more difficult to determine – unemployment levels are a “spot” measurement at a point in time, whereas income levels are for a period of time. Annual income is difficult to track on a short-term basis. We expect that overall incomes will have dropped, but the effects of COVID are highly dependent upon circumstances and location. Many of those who were laid off made more money collecting unemployment then when they worked for several months, but most unemployed took a significant income hit for at least 2-3 months. For small business owners, the effects are likely to linger for several years. We will know more come early next year, but for now, we made no changes to income in our datasets.

Migration and Immigration

On migration, there is lots of speculation in the media about people fleeing Manhattan and other large cities. Perhaps they have, but many have left for 2nd homes elsewhere which they already owned, and as things calm down, will return. In our world, did they leave? Depends on for how long. Again, it is too early to tell what the impacts will be on certain major cities over the coming years, but this is something that the AGS data team is looking at closely.