The Indicator from Planet Money - New Year, New Indicators

2020 was a tough year for the economy. How different will 2021 be? Today on the show, we take a look at three of our favorite indicators for the new year.

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everyone is Stacey and Cardiff and we are back again on the indicator from planet money to start a new year 2021 guaranteed. By the way that this year will be better than last year we can do that right we can make that guarantees de Saron see it. I mean, hopefully this really hope I mean you never know though, you know, the last I heard there was a meteor that was sort of near-earth. I don't know card if it feels like your sounds pretty good right about now be honest with you, but the really big open question just how long it's going to take before the economy gets back to where it was before the pandemic started if it even returns to that point at all, or at least for a really long time. Yeah, and this is also why it's important to know which questions to ask about the economy and which indicators to keep track of this.

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That will answer those questions and this is something by the way that you are listeners can do right alongside us. Yes Barber show 2021 interactive indicator three big questions that we have about the economy in 2021 and the indicators that we think everyone should be paying special attention to right after a quick break.

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Can we do the indicators three big questions this year about the economy? First up did the new Aid in stimulus Bill the one that was passed the very end of last year when everyone was on holiday, will that bill successfully get money to the people who most need it. So as a reminder at that bill included an extra $300 per week in unemployment insurance for people who have lost their jobs and it included an extra $600 check for people who make less than a certain amount of money every year. And so with that in mind here is the indicator that we are going to be following food scarcity or to describe it a little more bluntly hunger. The Census Bureau has been surveying household in the US and asking them if it any point in the last week, they had not gotten enough food to eat and recent findings from that survey have been honestly kind of disturbing they have at so between the end of all

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And December the number of Americans were not getting enough to eat when up by more than 5 million people to a total of 27 million Americans that is a lot to put the number in perspective. It means that one out of every eight Americans is not consistently getting enough food to eat. And one of the likeliest reasons that that number had been going up. Is it so much of the money that households had received from the previous Congressional Bill had simply run out. So if more household start getting enough to eat then that might be a sign that families are being held by the new bill that just passed. So what we're watching to see is if the number of people reporting food scarcity hunger now goes down by 5 million people to offset the rise at the end of last year. Okay. So now for a second big question, how will we know that the economy has started healing and bite healing? We don't manage the economy will just keep growing from one quarter to the next we mean that the damage caused by the

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Endemic is mostly behind us. How do we know when that happens for this question? We chose a really simple indicator because it captures so much of what's happening in the economy enters the indicator the total amount that people are spending on Services Services includes everything from doctors appointments to eating in restaurants to stay in hotels to getting a haircut to attending a concert. Yes, and so in November, which is the last month that they have recorded if you would just for inflation spending on Services was about 7% lower that it was in February of last year. That was right before the pandemic at sound enormous. But in fact that is a huge drop, especially when you compare it to how much more people are spending on Goods things that you can actually talk like a car refrigerator setting up on those things. It is actually running 7% higher than it was before the pandemic that makes sense by the way Services often require people to

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Interact with other people sometimes literally to be served like in a restaurant and those are the sectors of the economy that have been most badly damaged by the Pentatonix where is buying goods has become a PE because people are spending more time at home. So they buy stuff physical stuff to make all that stayed home time more pleasant. And by the way, the fact that spending on Services down 7% and spending on Goods up 7% does not mean that they cancel each other out for the whole economy because services are away bigger part of the US economy normally twice as big as good. So this is a problem for the entire economy as well. So finally that leads us to our third big question. Let's say that we do get to the other side of the pandemic this year will we then discovered that the pandemic left behind some lasting and maybe even permanent changes to the economy answer this question. We're going to be following a secure indicator called the architecture Billings index

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Please wait. This is an index that shows how much Architects and the firm's they work with are in demand and a reason or following this index is that if demand for Architects is low. Then that is signaling there will not be much construction of Office Buildings in the future. Let's say that people continue shopping online buying stuff online just the way they did during the pandemic and they don't really go back to visiting physical stores to buy stuff. Well, then company just won't bother leasing retail spaces. So you need fewer of those buildings and fewer architect to design those buildings in the first place and the same trans would apply. If a lot of people continue working from home then companies will not need as much office space. And again, that means that there will be less of a need for Office Buildings and the architect who designed them as of right now the architecture Billings index has been showing some really terrible readings. Basically, the demand for Architects Services has been falling for 9 stray.

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Months and that is to be expected. We're still in the middle of the pandemic the question is will it rebound strongly maybe even go up for nine straight months as a pandemic is ending. If not, and it could be a sign that some of the habits that we picked up like online purchasing or working or sweatpants from the living room couch will in fact be here to stay and remind me Stacy and I should share our own like personal indicators there this year to see how things are going. Do you have one? I do have a couple of indicators. Yes. One of them is in fact, the pajama indicator of which is it is my personal goal for 2029 to not wear my pajamas to work anymore. That's actually a New Year's resolution of my that's actually you should track it by the way, like how many days a week you wear your pajamas to work and then see

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How it compares to I don't know what the last few weeks of the year or something like that the last few weeks of the year with 100% pajamas all the time. So I'm trying to just like get back into like at least it's not business casual at least just casual that's actually a great one and mine is one that I actually stole from you from a while back which is to start counting how many actual steps I take each day because it's so far down because of course, we're not going to the office anymore working from home. But also it's just your places to go in the city, you know, it's cold now so like going for a walk is not as pleasant. Okay. So what what is the do you have any indicators for us about that? I think if I get back to taking 10,000 steps a day, that'll be a good sign that the things are returning to normal very high reach. I mean how many steps do you think you take it down a normal day when you're not trying very very few.

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South will see, you know, the next time we update like are three big economic indicators will also update everyone on like our own three personal Educators. So if you are listeners that your own personal indicators, you want to share with us go ahead and email them to us at indicator and NPR. O RG this episode of the indicator was produced by Jamila Huxtable and it was fact-checked by Sean cell. Patty Hearst edits, the indicator and the indicator is a production of NPR.

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What kid is rethinking New Year's resolution all this January? We're thinking about both really big and really small changes. If you're wanting to change up your life and start fresh. We've got you covered. If you're looking to just make your home a little nicer. We got you there to listen to the life get Podcast from NPR.
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