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Business Closures and (Re)Openings in Real Time Using Google Places

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The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for policy-makers to closely monitor disruptions to the retail and food business sectors. We present a new method to measure business opening and closing rates using real-time data from Google Places, the dataset behind the Google Maps service.

We find that the reopenings of businesses that were temporarily closed during the lockdowns drove the overall rate of business openings in the retail and food sectors in the summer of 2021. Our estimates of business openings and closures line up with the timing of the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions across business sectors and across major Canadian cities.

Our results suggest that government support of businesses during lockdowns helped speed the recovery, given the number of reopenings. Our method is a complementary tool for the timely monitoring of businesses during a crisis, since existing methodologies that rely on business registries or tax data are not available in real time.