Obscure local gauges can suggest big economic trends

Kansas City StarOctober 25, 2011 

If you don’t need a weatherman to know it stopped raining, will you need an economist to know when these hard times finally soften?

Maybe not.

Evidence about the health of the economy surrounds us daily, if we just bother to look.

Good times and bad influence how full the collection plates get on Sunday mornings, as well as how long we wait for a booth at Applebee’s on Friday night.

Think about how often someone offers a free coffee mug, ink pen, ball cap or calendar with some company’s logo on it.

“When times get tough, those things get cut,” said Ken Roberson, a vice president at Citizens Bank & Trust in Kansas City who keeps a professional eye on the economy.

The state of our economy shows up even in trends not normally associated with money.

Yes, we’re building fewer houses and fewer cars these days. We’re also making fewer babies, and an Oct. 12 report from the Pew Research Center blamed the economy.

Such signs, along with assorted other indicators that don’t get much attention, offer clues to how we’re faring financially. Think of them as pieces of the jigsaw puzzle rather than the big picture on the box.

Read the complete story on kansascity.com

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