LISTEN: Cellphone tracking gives real-time insight into Alaska’s economic recovery

Anchorage streets were noticeably emptier, as many businesses closed or reduced operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Abbey Collins/Alaska Public Media)

Alaskans’ movements have changed dramatically with coronavirus fears, business closures and government mandates to stay home. Those movements are changing again, albeit gradually, as restrictions are lifted and some businesses reopen.

Read the most recent coverage of the coronavirus, and Alaska’s economy

All of this is being tracked by our cellphones, and some of the market research companies that collect that anonymous phone tracking data have been offering it for free to social scientists trying to better understand how people have responded to the pandemic.

One of those researchers digging into the data is economist Mouhcine Guettabi with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. Guettabi spoke with Alaska Public Media’s Casey Grove about the data and what it’s showing us, including what it says about consumers returning to retail locations.


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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at

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