Other transport-related indicators - week 46

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The corona pandemic has both direct and indirect effects on the transport system, reduced transport demand and other factors affecting traffic and transport volumes. In turn, reduced traffic affects both carbon dioxide emissions, environmental impact, noise and the number of accidents that occur in traffic.

Below are some changes that we can follow with indicators on a monthly basis:

  • Transport related household consumption
  • Sales development in the transport business
  • Bankruptcies and notices of termination of employment
  • New passenger cars and new light goods vehicles
  • Number of fatalities in road traffic accidents

As of week 33, information on short-term layoffs is not published here. For detailed labour market statistics, please consult Statistics Sweden, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth or the Swedish Public Employment Service. 

Transport related household consumption

There are statistics on household consumption expenditures per month. Before the pandemic (in 2019), transport related expenditures accounted for about 15 percent of total household consumption. During the pandemic, total household consumption has decreased every month, with the largest decrease in April of  - 11 percent. Household expenditures spent on transport has decreased significantly more than total expenditures. Transport expenditures fell by 11 percent in March and by a maximum of 29 percent in April. Total consumption and consumption of transport are still below last year's levels, even though there has been a gradual recovery month by month. In September, the difference in total household consumption compared to last year was - 4 percent and there is once again a decline in the growth rates for the expenditures on transport – 9 percent. (Figure 1)


Figure 1. Changes in consumption in March – September 2020. Consumption expenditures for Transport and retail sales and service of motor vehicles, percentage difference compared to the same month previous year, measured in fixed prices and working day adjusted. Source: Statistics Sweden (SCB)

Sales development in the transport business

During virtually all months since March, the turnover of all transport industries has been significantly lower than during the corresponding period last year. The same applies to September, compared with September last year and in ascending order: air transport -81 percent, maritime transport -40 percent, railway operators -38 percent, taxis - 35 percent, public transport -15 percent, warehousing and support services -11 percent, and freight by road +/- 0 percent. Sales in all transport industries combined (SNI 49 - 53) was in September 14 percent lower than last year, and the corresponding difference in August was -19 per cent. The difference compared to last year was the largest in May: -24 percent.

Freight by road (where haulers are included) is the sub-industry that has been least affected during the entire period, while air transport has been most affected. Public transport has a relatively small decline in turnover of 15 percent, given that travel, by all accounts, has decreased significantly more than that. This sector largely consists of subsidized public transport, and in it sales to customers are only a subset of total turnover. Air transport is the industry that has been most affected during all months and in September the difference in sales compared to last year was -81 percent (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Sales in current prices in March–September 2020, compared to same month in 2019. Percentage difference.
Source: Statistics Sweden (SCB)
Note: Postal and courier activities (SNI 53) is excluded from the figure.

The corona pandemic has had large diverse impacts on the retail sector. Some retail stores have major problems, while food sales have increased, initially because of hoarding but now mainly because of fewer restaurant visits. The food trade is transport-intensive and largely dependent on trucking. This is also the case for e-commerce, which is also booming.

E-commerce - which is also to a large extent transported by truck - has had strong growth during the pandemic. During the second quarter of 2020, e-commerce sales increased by as much as 49 percent, compared with the same quarter last year. The increased e-commerce is noticeable in the form of sharply increased package volumes, where home deliveries have increased more than deliveries to pick-up points. The product groups that increased the most during the second quarter were food (+115 percent), furniture and furnishings (+71 percent) and pharmacy articles (+69 percent). Demand has been so high that delivery times have been extended during the pandemic.

Bankruptcies and notices of termination

The number of bankruptcies is a market indicator of the effects of the corona pandemic. The Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis publishes official statistics on bankruptcies every month. During the period March–October 2020, 5 018 companies went bankrupt in Sweden. All these bankruptcies together affected 17 710 employees, 12 percent more than last year. Of all employees affected 1 317 (+18 percent compared with last year) were in the sector Transport and Warehousing (SNI 49–53).

One indicator that describes the risk of a reduction in the workforce is the number of notices of termination. It means that the employer warns the staff that they may be laid off. In Sweden, the employer reports a notice both to the trade union organization and to the Swedish public employment service. The Swedish public employment service publishes monthly statistics on the number of notices in different sectors.

During March–October2020, 108,624 people were given a notice in Sweden, of which 13,256 (12 percent) were in Transportation and storage (SNI 49 – 53). Compared with the same period last year, the difference in the number of notices in the transport industry was +450 percent, while the difference in the economy as a whole was +282 percent. The transport industries have thus had significantly more notices than the average industry.

Most notices were given during Spring (March - May) and then mainly affected shipping companies, the air sector as well as warehousing and support services. Land transport had most notices in June. Since July notices in the transport sector have been relatively few. Of all the notices in the industry during March - October 2020, most were in Warehousing and support activities (31 percent), followed by Land transport (26 percent) and Water transport (20 percent) (Figure 3).

Figure 3. The number of people getting notices in Transportation and storage (SNI 49 – 53). Number of people per month for three different periods during March – October in 2020.
Source: The Swedish public employment service

The transport sector is one of the sectors that has been hit hardest by notices if we measure by the number of people involved. The transport industry (SNI 49 - 53) accounts for just under 5 percent of employment but has accounted for 12 percent of the employees notified during the corona pandemic.

In March–October together, the notices were the most in Accomodation and food service followed by Manufacturing. After them follow the sector including travel agencies,Transportation and storage and Wholesale and trade. Together these five sectors accounted for 70 percent of all notices during the period.

The Swedish public employment service has followed up on the notices announced in March and April 2020 and finds that 53 percent of those notified were laid off within 3 months. For the transport industry, 46 percent of those notified were laid off. During the months studied, the transport industry accounted for 12 percent of the notifications and 10 percent of the layoffs. The Swedish public employment service notes that layoffs due to the corona pandemic occur more quickly after notice than was the case during the financial crisis (2008–2009).

New cars and new goods vehicles

Sales of new vehicles are traditionally considered an important indicator of the economic situation. In recent years, however, much has happened in the regulations for certain vehicles, which makes changes in new car sales much more difficult to interpret.

The number of newly registered passenger cars and LGVs has generally decreased in 2020, compared with the same months in 2019. During January-March, the decrease was mainly due to adaptation to the bonus-malus system. At the end of 2019, many passenger cars and LGVs (trucks with a total weight of max. 3.5 tonnes) were registered "prematurely" to avoid the higher malus tax. A rebound effect with fewer new registrations was therefore expected for the first months of 2020. The decline in April and May is significantly greater than in the initial months of the year. One probable explanation is the corona pandemic. As early as in March, car factories around the world began to reduce or completely shut down production, in parallel with a more general downturn in the national economy.

In May 2020, the number of newly registered passenger cars and LGVs decreased by approximately 50 percent (Figure 23). During the summer, there has been a very large decline in the number of newly registered vehicles, compared with last year. Newly registered LGVs were 13 percent below last year's level in October. The number of newly registered passenger cars increased in September for the first time this year, by 7 percent. In October, however, the number of new passenger cars was 5 percent lower than last year.

HGVs were well below last year's levels in the first half of the year and then increased by as much as 37 and 14 per cent in July and August, respectively. Heavy trucks are not affected by the bonus-malus tax, but on 15 June 2019, there was a new rule for so-called smart tachographs in HGVs. Due to this, more vehicles were registered than normal (early) in June 2019, with the consequent effect that new registrations during July and August 2019 were lower than normal. 2019 was a record year for newly registered HGVs and 2020 started at approximately the same levels. Probably the reasons for the decline in March - June are a combination of delivery difficulties directly caused by corona and a more general uncertainty for the future.

During the entire corona pandemic (March - October), the difference in the number of newly registered vehicles compared with last year has been -17 percent for passenger cars, -35 percent for LGVs and -28 percent for HGVs.

Figure 4. Newly registered passenger cars, light goods vehicles (LGVs) and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). Monthly figures in 2020 compared with the same months in 2019, percentage change.
Source: Transport Analysis

Killed in road traffic accidents

In 2019, fewer people died in road traffic accidents than ever before in modern times; 223 people. During January-October 2020, 155 people were killed, compared with 191 last year. During the month of March this year, the death toll was extremely low: 6 people. In April - July, the death toll has been at about the same level as last year, while the difference was greater during the autumn with alternately fewer and more deaths than the same month last year. During October this year, 11 people died, compared to 23 in October last year (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Number of people killed in road traffic accidents in January–October 2020 and the corresponding months in 2019.
Source: Swedish Transport Agency
Note: The number of fatalities refers to road traffic accidents excluding suicides and other intentional acts.

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