You can read all the headline statistics you want, and if you REALLY want to be told what you want to hear, you can always listen to Barack Obama talk about job growth and the economy. But there are some eccentric or "anecdotal" statistics that are unconventional in the world of economics, but have the ability to predict the economy nonetheless.
For example to accurately gauge economic growth in China and not the dubious "official GDP" statistics the Chinese government publishes, some economists look at electrical consumption. Alan Greenspan liked to look at railroad tie replacement rates. And there are others that escape my mind. But two come to mind here in the good ole USA that I've kind of unofficially kept track of;
Dance class enrollments and Harley ridership in the Black Hills.
I have been teaching ballroom dance for the past 14 years. This includes the booming 90's, the subsequent stock market crash, the booming housing bubble and the subsequent great recession. Enrollments followed correspondingly. I had standing room only (which all dance classes are HAR!!!!) at the peak of the Dotcom bubble. The 2000 recession hit, BLAMO! Enrollments dropped about 60%. The recovered and exceeded previously levels as attendees used home equity lines to finance SUV's, trips to Europe and ballroom dance classes. The housing market collapsed and BLAMO! Enrollments dropped 90% from their highs.
Of course with the economy in full recovery according to the left, you would think enrollments would have recovered. However, a full 3 years after the housing crisis, they keep going down. Below is a guestimate chart.
Then there is the ridership in the Black Hills. Sturgis is coming up and this is the third year I've placed myself in the Black Hills for the better part of 2 months in my effort to enjoy the decline. My hotel is in a small mountain town and there are three statistics I've anecdotally noticed.
1. The number of motorcycles on the road are about 1/2 of what they were last year around this time. I noticed this because I can actually drive the speed limit and not be burdened by some slow driving Harley noob who carted his motorcycle, let alone a traffic jam of them. YOu can actually make it through the "Needles" highway in under 1/2 hour. Usually takes an hour.
2. The caliber of clientele at the hotel I'm staying at is no longer out of state, middle to upper middle class folk. It's locals who are using the hotel as temporary living quarters as they've been kicked out of their homes or are returning from jail. I am now officially in the minority of boarders in that I have NEVER been to jail. The majority of boarders have. Drugs have been found on the premises. Deals are now made in the parking lot. And I find it a beneficial practice to clean my guns in front of my hotel room on the patio so everybody sees them.
3. Talking with the various proprietors of the three bars in town (which I have now established rapports with), I find out sales and foot traffic are down about 40%.
The whole point of this potpourri of economic statistics you'll not find in college textbooks?
The economy isn't recovering, and not only is it not recovering, I believe it's high time for a double dip.
Whatever the headline figures may read, other "down to Earth" measures of commerce and economic activity are down. Sure, ballroom dance classes are a luxury good which has a high elasticity with disposable income. And of course you could claim gas prices are hurting tourism, but if the economy was recovering, even stagnant, these statistics would remain consistent from 2010. For 2011, they're continuing their decline.
Naturally I would like to see a booming economy, alas my economic spidey senses and plain common sense know that just is not going to happen any time soon.
In the meantime, you all may as well enjoy the decline until 2012, at which point there MAY be a reason to work hard and try once again. But we shall see.