When most “serious” folks consider where the economy is headed — or where it’s been — they normally look at things like jobs, housing, retail sales, inventory and manufacturing data. But for most of us, some of those indicators aren’t that “real.” How can you relate, in an every-day way, to manufacturing data?
As you might expect, some experts notice other trends that come with a down economy. For instance, when the economy is poor, divorce, marriage and birth rates all drop . This is because this sorts of big life decisions can get quite expensive. But even those indicators aren’t even the quirkiest things that some analysts have noticed over the years. Kiplinger  came up with a rather intriguing list of strange items that can serve as economic indicators. Here are a few:
- Fingernail polish: During tough economic times, many people cut back on luxuries. We’ve seen quite a bit of during the last recession, and even since the “technical” end to the recession as consumers continue to feel pinched. However, cutting back on luxuries doesn’t mean that consumers have to forgo them altogether. Fingernail polish sales rise during tough economic times, along with other inexpensive cosmetics. These items provide pick-me-ups, acting as affordable luxuries when other items might not be so readily available.
- Dollar sign: Interestingly, according to Kiplinger, advertising changes to encourage people to save money with dollar signs. During good economic times, stores advertise sales with “percentage off” deals. But, during tougher times, advertisements that tell you how many dollars you’ll save are more effective. That’s concrete information that consumers feel they can take to the bank.
- Increase in lottery play: During bad economic times, the number of people playing the lottery  goes up. It seems as though hope springs eternal, even when people are aware of the odds of winning the lottery. Even though you don’t feel like you have enough to invest, apparently you have a few dollars to try your luck in the lottery, and see if it can solve all your money problems. (Unfortunately, even if you win, it’s unlikely to solve all your problems.)
In addition to these items, there is another interesting economic indicator: Men’s underwear . This economic indicator was cited by none other than Alan Greenspan himself. Apparently, the former Fed Chairman looked for information about underwear sales when attempting to discover if consumers were feeling the pinch. It seems that, for the most part, sales of men’s underwear remain fairly steady. When sales begin to dip, it’s an indication that consumers are feeling pinched enough that they aren’t buying replacement undergarments.
There’s no need to struggle to understand the economic indicators used by a majority of the pros. Instead, you might be able to learn a great deal by watching what goes on at your local department store. Of course, chances are that if the economy is struggling you already know it. After all, you are living in the “real world” of current economic conditions every day.
What’s your favorite economic indicator?
(Photo: susanhm7854 )