Packed theaters, too many gators: Economic indicators aplenty

There are the regular economic indicators -- measuring durable goods, retails sales, gross domestic product and new residential sales -- but there are plenty of other ways to measure how the economy is doing that are a lot easier to understand.

Quirky economic indicators -- such as how if it's easy to catch a cab in New York City or having more patrons fill libraries in the afternoon might mean not many people are working -- might be better ways to gauge if the recession is improving. just came up with a list of 10 quirky economic indicators. Here are some that the personal finance site wrote about. Tell us yours in the comments section below.

Packed theaters: Despite a recent slight drop, box office sales have increased this year, as they have in all of the last five recession years. People are looking to be entertained in down times, and a movie is a relatively cheap way to escape.

More green thumbs:
The number of households that will grow their own fruits, berries, vegetables and herbs this year is 19% higher than in 2008, according to the National Gardening Association. Most say saving money on groceries motivates them.

More first dates: The fourth quarter of 2008 was the busiest in seven years for, an online dating service. Having someone else to either share the pain or help forget your money troubles is always good in a recession. The site had its second-busiest weekend of the year in November when the Dow Jones industrial average dropped to a five-year low.

Sleep problems: Nearly one-third of Americans lost sleep because they were worried about their finances, according to the 2009 Sleep in America Poll. The poll by the National Sleep Foundation also found that 10% tossed and turned while worrying about their jobs.

Too many gators: People aren't buying alligator skin handbags and luggage, leaving Savoie's Alligator Farm in Louisiana with 100,000 alligators it can't get rid of. It sells the hides to tanners, who sell them to luxury designers like Louis Vuitton. The problem is that Savoie's hasn't sold a hide since November.

So now you'll know the economy has turned around when you start seeing more alligator bags, can sleep better, can find a movie theater seat easier or find other things to do besides gardening.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at
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