The declines in March exports and imports of services were, in part, due to the impact of COVID-19. The United States and other countries issued travel advisories or restrictions, which led to rapid declines in the numbers of foreign travelers to the United States and U.S. travelers abroad. The full economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be quantified in the trade statistics for March because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified.
Services statistics for the subject month are typically based on limited source data. Monthly source data for travel and transport are typically available for the current month as is the case for the statistics in this release. For preliminary March 2020 statistics, available source data include 1) the number of foreign travelers to the United States and the number of U.S. travelers abroad (from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) that were used to estimate travel and transport services, and 2) statistics on trade in goods (from the U.S. Census Bureau) that were used to estimate transport services. For services categories that are based on BEA’s quarterly surveys of financial, insurance, and other selected services and intellectual property transactions, survey data for the current period are available with a two-quarter lag, and BEA estimates the current periods based on related indicator series and historical trends. For February and March 2020, BEA adjusted its standard estimation approach using private sector reports on the impact of COVID-19 on business operations. More complete source data will be incorporated following the schedule outlined in the “Revision procedure (goods on a BOP basis and services)” section in the explanatory notes of each trade report.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis