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January 14, 2022

Economic indicators for the rest of us

To the layman, this recession has come as a whirlwind of high-brow, economic bank-speak.

You’ve pretty much needed a Cornell MBA to read the business section over the past 18 months … that is, of course, if you wanted to learn more about why you’re suddenly without both a pension and job.

But finally there is reprieve. For all the nonsense we’ve read about Consumer Price Indexes and weighted unemployment numbers, there are now economic indicators the average Canadian can understand. has compiled a list of 25 of them, in fact, and they range from, “Well, that makes sense” to, “Really? How the hell does that work?”

For instance, men’s underwear (as we’ve written) is often hailed as one of the top economic indicators. According to former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the theory’s father, sales of men’s undies are usually steady business.

If the economy starts to rattle, though, analysts should look no further than how the boxer/brief industry is performing. According to The New York Times, “when men are trying to cut back on their spending, they reliably cut back on new underwear purchases.”

Some of my other favourites from the list:

Unclaimed Bodies: Death, notes MainStreet, is expensive. So in times of economic fragility, people literally can’t afford to claim the bodies of their loved ones. When the deceased are left in morgues, families – however morbid it may be – are able to skirt funeral costs, which can run tens of thousands of dollars.

Hot Waitresses: New York Magazine points out that, aside from places like Hooters and strip clubs, bars and restaurants generally employ “hotter” waitresses in a bid to desperately draw in customers. We know, this isn’t exactly the most PC practice, but if you believe the hype, “the hotter the waitress, the weaker the economy.”

Be sure to check out the full MainStreet list here.

Anything you’d add? Change? Agree/disagree with?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money 



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...