Corporate Eye

Economic Indicators: Pink Ties and Trash

economic indicator: pink tie

I must admit, I follow announcements of official indicators that measure where the economy is going. These are very involved data gathering and analytical endeavors. Currently they give no definitive picture.

I started to think that there might be other measures that are not compiled, yet might give less analytical but subtle indicators that would give an unofficial account of where the economy is headed. Then I found this article  “Economy: These Below-the-Radar Indicators May Signal Growth” on Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Seems that there are some uncommon economic indicators such as–

  • diesel fuel sales at roughly 7,000 truck stops across the country–climbed 3.1 percent in May from April, the largest monthly increase since February 1999
  • train shipments of waste and scrap materials–increasing at the fastest pace in 16 years
  • electricity usage and the service economy, ( this is compiled by the Edison Electric Institute releases weekly represents certain aspects of the service sector, such as office and retail space). Richard DeKaser, president of Woodley Park Research in Washington, D.C. says–

“When you’re filling up office buildings, and office buildings are working overtime—and the same for retail stores—that’s a good proxy for those sectors.”

This indicator for the week ended June 5 was up 10.8 percent from the same week in 2009.

  • While the the typical employment data is dismal, optimism in recent data concerning temporary workers. The May 25 report by the American Staffing Association showed May staffing employment up 3 percent from April and up 19 percent from a year earlier.

Then there is this article published by Forbes: “Uncommonly Clever Economic Indicators”. These indicators are a bit more interesting–

  • pink ties Bob Allsbrook, chief economist for Regions Bank, in Birmingham, Ala., looks for wisdom in neckwear–specifically, pink ties. … “Since the start of the summer(2009), I’ve seen lots of men wearing pink and fuchsia colored ties,” he notes.
  • the size of restaurant trash bags : Americans are eating out again, and that’s a good sign. You can see that trend in the size of the garbage piles behind restaurants
  • denim jeans sales –NPD market research firm says

    “Jeans are a relatively cheap investment and one of the first things consumers buy when the economy starts to bounce back. … denim sales have already started to pop: For the six months from January to June, denim sales jumped 5.3% to $7.6 billion vs. the same period in 2008.”

  • corporate hotel cancellations — cancellations for corporate meetings and events declined substantially. However, major event planners are booking space for 2010, 2011 and even 2012.

This article includes other interesting metrics such as shopping bags and Christie’s wine auctions.

Want to find out where the economy is headed? Put on a pink tie, get in your diesel truck and drive behind some restaurants.

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Ed Konczal has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business (with distinction). He has spent the last 10 years as an executive consultant focusing on human resources, leadership, market research, and business planning. Ed has over 10 years of top-level experience from AT&T in the areas of new ventures and business planning. He is co-author of the book "Simple Stories for Leadership Insight," published by University Press of America.