Local businesses and economies are nearing full recovery from the pandemic, according to a study by business directory and crowdsourced review forum Yelp, which compared data from March through May with corresponding data from the same period in pre-Covid 2019 as a baseline to project percentages of recovery from the declines of 2020.
Yelp said in its report, “Consumer interest—measured by counting a few of the many actions people take to connect with businesses on Yelp: viewing business pages or posting photos or reviews—demonstrates how people are engaging with local businesses, in turn providing insight into how the economy is recovering. During a time when labor shortages and rising commodity prices paint a hazy portrait of the overall health of the economy, Yelp’s consumer interest data provides unique insight into the types of businesses, states and cities that have recovered the most by analyzing millions of data points across more than 1,200 categories in all 50 states.”
The company’s key findings included:
- Restaurants have bounced back to 86% of 2019 levels, while food businesses have reached 92%. Yelp spotlighted a return to shared food experiences, noting recovery levels in 2021 from 2019 of 97% for conveyor belt sushi, 82% for tapas, 75% for hot pot, 84% for dim sum and 52% for buffets.
- Home and local services had nearly fully recovered, reaching 99% of 2019 levels, and Yelp found that the housing market this year has driven interest in real estate agents to 104% of 2019 levels, while mortgage brokers were at 105% and home inspectors at 106%.
- Consumer interest in shopping reached 92% of 2019 levels, with Yelp noting recovery in shoes (79%), jewelry (88%) and men’s, women’s and children’s clothing (all at 76%).
- Interest in automotive services hit the gas hard, up 106% when compared with 2019 levels, with interest in recreational vehicle dealers up 125%, motorcycle dealers 126% and used car dealers 110%.
Yelp also shared data on states and metropolitan areas, saying that those with lower population density and fewer restrictions are seeing greater recovers in consumer interest.
States on the rebound included Florida (98% of 2019 levels), Georgia (91%) and Texas, while those with densely populated metropolitan areas with large public transit hubs and cautious rollbacks of pandemic restrictions were on the other side of the spectrum, with Washington, D.C., at 54%, New York at 63% and Massachusetts at 71%.
The top metro areas were: Key West, Fla., 120% of 2019 levels; Napa, Calif., 112%; Ocean City, N.J., 115%; South Padre Island in Harlingen, Texas, 129%); and Hilton Head, S.C., 116%.