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Green shoots and leaves IV

15:53 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

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.

builder_bricks226pa.jpgSo 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."


  • Comment number 1.

    Fireworks monitor.
    Having been overseas for 40 years I was suprized to find that fireworks were been used throughout the year.I thought we were only allowed to use them for Bonfire Night,or is it because we couldnt afford them in those days.?
    To get to my point,about 8 years ago I was lucky enough to live as a housesitter in a very elite area here for a while.Fireworks espesially expensive ones were the norm weekdays included.Now I know why it was because the bankers who lived in this elite area where celebrating their disgusting bonuses.These days its rare to see fire works.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Fireworks indicator?

    Sorry... not seen as a great wealth indicator in Bradford... (or maybe it is!!)

    When let off on some streets
    3pm = a wedding has occured
    5pm= drugs have arrived and available for sale


  • Comment number 3.

    My father always used the amount of bricks in the yards of the brick kilns next to the railway line through Whittlesea. Lots of bricks = no building = bad economy, no bricks = lots of building = good economy. This only works until the brick companies themselves go bust.

  • Comment number 4.

    I don't quite know where to suggest seed, seeds, or plants should be categorized in the ongoing saga of ---daq

    If there is no need for the food, refrain from buying seeds.
    If one wishes to refrain from sex for any period, don't think seed.
    If one prefers to expire, shall they be planted or cremated?

    littleDickie NY USA


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