Economic folklore: How to spot a recession

News reached us today that the UK is on track for a triple-dip in the next UK recession.

The economy is now 3.3 per cent smaller than at its peak in the first quarter of 2008, recovering only about half the output lost during the financial crisis. Chancellor George Osborne, speaking about the figures in Davos, blamed the build-up of debt under Labour and the crisis in the euro zone for Britain’s shaky economic figures.

Now, economists are eagerly looking at factors that could point towards what’s next. “The big euro-exit risk has diminished, the employment picture is better than expected and manufacturers are continuing to look to new markets for growth,” Lee Hopley told the Guardian, predicting a more promising 2013.

Whether that is plausible or not, we have learned to cope with economic surprises. Throughout centuries of economic roller coasters, people have come up with some more unconventional indicators to detect economic health. Forget consumer spending, rising unemployment and inflationary pressure; look out for missing pets and go to the cinema instead.

Buy into them or not, here are the economic indicators that have developed a folkloristic status over the past few years:

1. Alligator population

With less people spending money, there are fewer sales, and a decrease in store purchase orders. Forgoing handbags, boots and jackets means that alligators get to keep their skin.

2. Cyclists’ deaths

Official figures from the UK Department for Transport show the increase of bike fatalities in the occurrence of a recession. Truth is, people save money by biking to and from places, instead of driving, which leads the likelihood of bike accidents to increase.

3. Divorce rates

Although it may seem couples stay together because they need support, it’s also, sadly, because having a divorce is expensive. No money, no divorce.

4. Google searches

According to Google’s domestic trends, more people search the web in times of crisis. From ways to earn money from home, to cheapening your lifestyle and job searches.

5. High heels

The higher the heel, the worse the economy. Historically, from the great depression until now, heels and the health of the economy form a correlation. Apparently, women want a better image of themselves and more self-confidence in a recession.

6. Missing pets

Desperate times call for desperate measures; in this case, ransom. You find a dog you know the owner of, wait for those reward signs to show up and then collect the reward money. In other cases, pets were abandoned as owners could no longer afford to keep them.

7. Online dating

Many people go online to find that special someone; someone who can make them forget their money problems. Chances are that online, you are more likely to find someone with the same experiences rather than spending money to wait around at your local pub or club for someone to turn up.

8. Packed cinemas

In past recessions, cinema-going became a trend. When ticket sales increase, the economy has taken a turn for the worse. Most cinemas claim to reach double-digit growth and are, historically, recession-proof. Movies are a cheap source of entertainment out of the house. When the economy suffers, you want to escape your problems for an hour or two. Compared to other forms of entertainment, ticket prices are cheap.

9. Unclaimed corpses

When the morgue is full, the economy has plummeted. Depressingly, even death costs money; with expensive taxes and funeral costs. Tough economic lives have families leaving the corpses of loved ones unclaimed so as not to pay the fees.

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