Green shoots and leaves IV
How you measure a green shoot, part four.
It's the Magazine's ongoing hunt for alternative ways of measuring what's going on in the economy.
So far we've looked at your suggestions for measuring trends in transport (number of cars on the M6, for instance) and newspapers (number of job adverts) as well as mess on the pavement. Today's alternative indices come from homes and building.
The idea of a "crane" index is a long-established one - that the number of big ones on the skyline indicates economic activity and confidence - but there are other more left-field measures from the world of bricks and mortar.
How about a Skip Index. Cranes only tell you about large commercial and residential developments. The number of skips used in affluent residential areas is a prime economic indicator, says reader Andrew Drummond.
But Skip Index is already being questioned, by Alex Mack. He says that while it might mean people are more affluent and spending the money on their houses, it might also mean that people cannot afford to move but their family is still growing and therefore they have to upgrade their house. So beware.
A related index is scaffolding, says Robin Cook, from London. It indicates an increase in building work, a sure sign people are spending money again, he suggests. Bu the same caveat applies as for skips.
Or you could ask an architect. Nick Mulholland is one and says he has been able to spot the upturn in the economy 12 months in advance for the last three recessions. He says the numbers of clients seeking planning permissions tends to increase suddenly when credit terms and confidence improves.
It's possible to turn the Crane Index on its head, suggests Zoe S, of High Wycombe, who watched cranes in Leeds a couple of years ago and noticed it was possibly indicative of over expansion/over confidence - not necessarily economic growth.
Away from the building industry, but still firmly in the home zone, is the Mr Smith Letter Index. Georgina from London explains: "Those letters from estate agents claiming that a 'Mr Smith' is desperate to buy a house in your road if you'll just give them a call. We've had almost none for two years, and then three this week."