We reported last week that we saw a slight slowdown in the recovery of our nation’s economy. But our data from this week suggests that is most likely an outlier, or possibly just a slight delay in receiving this week’s data to analyze. For the first time since stay-at-home orders were issued at the end of March, we are now seeing data that appears to be at near normal levels. This of course reflects the larger picture that has emerged in the national news with unemployment levels falling in May and the stock market bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. But it also comes during a week of large, organized protests all across the country, and looting that has occurred in many cities and suburban areas.
Last week we saw the number of credit approval requests and the total dollars requested return to pre-pandemic levels. The number of credit approvals requested was at 81% of average, which is well within a normal level of fluctuation that we see week to week. In terms of dollars, they were at 101% of average. While it is certainly possible that this week’s data could be an outlier, or it could be that some purchase orders that came in the previous week didn’t get submitted to us in a timely fashion, there is no question that this is indeed good news. The highest numbers that we had seen for requests and dollars were only 52% and 78% respectively. We haven’t seen numbers like this since the week ending March 20th. Now it is a little concerning that the percentage for number of requests is much lower than the percentage for dollars requested, as this would imply the major retailers are accounting for the majority of the volume. But just how drastically both these numbers have improved over the last week would imply that many small businesses are recovering as well.
Purchases have been fluctuating wildly from week to week which makes them a lot harder to read. This past week purchases reached 76% of normal levels, their second highest level since the pandemic began. The week with a higher percentage was mainly due to several very large orders being invoiced to major retailers in the same week, these large orders were all placed prior to the pandemic. This week’s data does not appear to have any unusually large orders, meaning that it shows great improvement all around, and not just for a few major retailers. More good news is that over the last month we have seen purchases levels fluctuate between 44-76% with an average of 60%, earlier in the pandemic they were fluctuating between 36-62% with an average of 48%, excluding the one week that was clearly an outlier. So, while these numbers may be difficult to gauge, they are clearly improving.
Payables have been returning to normal over the last month, and continue to reflect that. We’ve seen total dollars outstanding increase for the second straight week, and the total number of receivables outstanding increase for the very first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Total outstanding dollars are up another 2% this week, after climbing by 1% last week. While this may seem small, it is significant considering that they had been dropping an average of 7% per week prior to that. This combines with a 4.5% increase in total number of receivables outstanding, and a 7.2% increase in the number of accounts with outstanding balances. Prior to this week, those numbers had been declining by 13.4% and 11.1% per week respectively.
Of course, all of this positive change would be meaningless if older receivables weren’t getting paid, but it turns out while we are seeing these increases, we are actually seeing even more of older receivables getting paid off. The number of receivables that are current now account for 65% of all outstanding receivables, while 77% of total outstanding dollars are now current. Both of these numbers have increased by 7% over last weeks number and are at levels that we would consider perfectly normal.
As for past due receivables, the total number of them has dropped by 12% from last week, while total dollars have dropped by 23%. While these numbers have been dropping throughout the pandemic, the total number has only been declining by an average of 6.5% per week, and dollars have been declining by 3.5% per week, with last week seeing an increase in total dollars past due of 4%. This is a very clear indication that older orders are being paid for and new orders are being placed.
At this point 18% of all receivables are now 1-30 days beyond terms, and they account for 10% of total outstanding dollars. Both of these numbers are not only improvements over last week, but they are also well below normal levels. This could mean two possible things. First it might mean that companies are taking less time to pay their bills, or alternatively it could mean that only companies that are strong financially had been placing orders during the pandemic as the majority of these invoices are from April and a small portion of them from early May.
Meanwhile the number of invoices that are 31-60 days late have dropped from 14.5% of all receivables to 8.5% of all receivables over the last week, and they now account for less than 5% of total outstanding dollars, and improvement of 3.5%. These are receivables that would have been become due between early April and early May for orders that were placed prior to the start of the pandemic. While these numbers are higher than normal, it is certainly understandable that these would be the orders that are most difficult to pay for as the retailers would not have had much, if any, of a chance to sell the merchandise before being forced to close their doors. It is a very encouraging sign that these numbers are continuing to drop.
We have seen a slight increase in the number of receivables that are more than 61 days past due as there are now 3% more than there were last week, and their dollar value actually increased by 12%. However, a handful of these invoices did get paid off, it’s just that more invoices have aged into this bucket since last week. At this point 9% of all invoices are 61 days or more beyond terms, and they account for 8% of total outstanding dollars. This is the first time since the pandemic began that we have seen more invoices and dollars in the 61+ bucket than we have in the 31-60 bucket. It is only further proof that companies that were struggling before the pandemic, and struggling now even more.
Again, we will compare states that reopened early, prior to May 9th, with those that reopened later. We have already noticed that the states that were first to reopen are the states that had their economies hit the heaviest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that reopening had not done much to revive their staggering economies. Sadly, despite the huge uptick we saw across all the above categories this past week, we actually saw numbers slip in the states that reopened earlier, with drastic gains in the states that waited longer to reopen.
While purchases may have been way up overall this past week, it appears that all of these gains occurred in states that waited longer to reopen. We saw a 50% increase in purchases in states that waited longer to reopen, and a 25% decrease in states that reopened earlier. While these purchase numbers have been fluctuating wildly throughout the pandemic, both of these numbers are beyond the normal fluctuations that we have been seeing from week to week.
The other noticeable change we saw this week is in past due invoices. It has been the case for the last month that businesses in states that reopened earlier were less likely to be past due than businesses that waited longer to reopen. While the gap between these two groups had been narrowing, this week we saw the gap flip, and businesses in states that reopened later are now 1% less likely to be past due than businesses in states that reopened earlier.
Overall, it looks like our economy is headed on the right track and may even be improving much faster than many experts predicted. Of course, we still have a long way to go, and geography appears to be playing a significant role in whether businesses have been able to recover. We will continue to monitor the situation each week and keep you informed until the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.