One of the most common requests for information over the past year is a measure of the demand for Downtown services, retail, hospitality, etc., throughout the pandemic and as we recover. Basically, what everyone wants to know is how has the pandemic affected the population’s desire to visit Downtown Detroit and when will we return to normal.
Now that we are more than halfway through 2021, we can begin to answer the first question using data from location intelligence company Placer Labs. Placer uses anonymous location data from individual users’ smart phone apps to determine where those smart phones have visited throughout the day. While just a sample of the population is used to develop their data, statistical methods are applied to make an accurate estimate of the overall population – similar to how Nielsen Holdings Inc. uses a sample of the population to provide insights & data about what people watch, listen to & buy.
In 2019, before COVID-19 hit Detroit, there were between approximately 86,000 and 105,000 daily visits to Downtown Detroit. This number does not include people that work in Downtown or live in Downtown (those people are included in another bucket of data).
A public health emergency was declared on March 10, 2020. That same month, the average number of daily visits fell to 44,541. By April, there were only 6,843 average daily visits Downtown. The graph below shows the average number of visits per day by month for 2019 through the first half of 2021.
Figure 1: Average Downtown Detroit Visits per Day (Visitors) by Month.
Source: Placer.ai. July, 2021. Data compiled by the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
While there was a gradual increase in visits through the summer of 2020, the numbers were still less than half of those during the lowest months of 2019.
In 2021, as the COVID vaccine became widely available, the number of daily visits steadily increased month to month throughout the spring. By June of this year there were over 62,000 average daily visits, the most since February of 2020. Still, that represents 40% fewer visits than June 2019.
Overall, the trend is positive and daily visits are expected to continue to increase, hopefully uninterrupted, to pre-pandemic levels. At this point, we don’t know when that will happen. The Downtown Detroit Partnership will continue to track these numbers and report on progress.
To look at workforce trends data over time, one need not look any further than to the Datascape. This data originates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s The Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program and its LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics data (LODES).
LEHD uses data from unemployment insurance filings for all 50 states, which each state shares with the federal government and LEHD. The data is made anonymous and then compiled to show how many workers there are per census block, where those workers live, as well as limited demographic information and broad salary ranges.
The data set is released annually, using data that is approximately two years old. The Downtown Detroit Datascape breaks down those data in the Metrics on Downtown Detroit (MoDD) tool, which can be found on the DDP website. Within MoDD, you can find numbers of Downtown workers, where Downtown workers are commuting from, and where there are residential concentrations of Metro area workers.
The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) Board of Directors represents workers from all the top 10 largest Downtown Detroit employers. The DDP is surveying its board members to help take the pulse and project what in-person work will look like in Downtown Detroit once the pandemic is mitigated, and employees return to their physical offices.
The goal is to project the demand for amenities, goods and services generated by the workforce for the benefit of all Downtown businesses (restaurant, retail, hospitality, etc.) The survey data and analysis can provide crucial information for businesses, including but not limited to appropriate staffing levels, hours of operation and inventory acquisition.
The survey is not intended to provide a highly precise estimate of future daily workers Downtown. However, the top 10 largest businesses employ about 60 to 70% of all the workers Downtown. By better understanding the Return to Work Downtown plans of these businesses, we should be able to provide valuable data.
Stay tuned, results for this survey are expected soon.