Oct 14

9 Weird And Intersting Indicators of Recession

Reading Time: 5 mins

Have you ever heard the phrase; ‘Green shoots of recovery’ – do you know how it came to be used and what are some of the more interesting indicators of recession?

Origin of “Green Shoots of Recovery”

Norman Lamont, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, was the first to put his foot in it by using the term ‘green shoots’ to indicate signs of economic recovery. It was 1991 and all anyone else could see was bleak recession. He was blasted at the time for ‘insensitivity’ but even so, others have followed suit and thrown themselves lemming-like into the media pit by being far too previous in pointing out signs that no one else can see.

.Green shoots

In January 2009, Baroness Vadera, then business minister, pointed to alleged green shoots (I’m not sure what – maybe someone got a job in a tea shop in Chelmsford or something) and was shot down in flames by the press. Since then the Americans have taken it up – Bruce Kasman, chief economist at JPMorgan used the term in February 09 and Ben Bernanke followed suit in March 09. Now there’s a little more confidence, the world and his wife are bandying the term about. We’re waiting for Alan Titchmarsh to get on the bandwagon and plant a ‘green shoots’ garden for the Chelsea Flower Show complete with discount voucher violets and a quantitative easing border.


9 Weird Indicators of Recession

In fact, you can spot some green shoots indicators for yourself. And don’t go wasting your time with silly numerical charts or Bank of England reports or Q3, Q4 results or any of that nonsense. Oh no. There are far better ways of spotting genuine green shoots of economic recovery just by observing your friends and family.

Line of different coloured lipsticksLipstick

For example, there’s the important ‘Leading Lipstick Indicator’, a phrase coined by Leonard Lauder, chairman of Estee Lauder. In 2001 he said that in tough economic times women buy more lipsticks as they’re little affordable luxuries they can turn to to cheer them up. So, the theory goes, the more lipsticks that are sold, the deeper the recession.


Woman having eyeshadow applied to her eyelid with a brushEye-Makeup

The website, which has come up with 10 indicators of its own, says that it’s actually eye make-up that’s the real indicator. In the 12 months to March this year, they say, eyeliner was up 9% and mascara almost 13%.

different types of foundation and concealerFoundation

Not wanting to be left out, this year L’Oreal also waded into the debate saying that actually it’s foundation that’s edged out lipsticks as the strongest indicator of economic hardship on the cosmetic counter. I’m sure this was a highly scientific statement of theirs and not in the least a thinly-veiled attempt to gain a bit of cheap publicity.


Young toned man pulling jeans down at one side to reveal the top of his boxer shortsPants

Speaking of cheap, though, according to Kiplinger another sign of a deepening recession is more men ‘going commando’ as they put it – in other words, not wearing pants. Well, no one knows if you’re wearing undies (not unless you’re a Scotsman anyway) so why waste pennies on new pants? As soon as the sale of y-fronts and boxers goes up, though, you’ll know the recession’s on the way out and decency is back in.


Short floral skirt on woman laying on the grassHemline

For women, it’s the hemline index. Skirt lengths go up in the good times when we’re all feeling confident. Before the crash in 2007 Katie Price was spearheading the wearing of skirts that are so short the world’s your gynaecologist. In the 1970’s, on the other hand, when the economy was so depressed it could only get out of bed three days a week, the maxi-skirt was in, covering legs almost to the ankles.


Black and white photo of the band ABBA (1974)Abba

Other ground-breaking research has found that in a deep recession, such as the one we are, apparently, just coming out of now, we buy more Abba records, but that could just be coincidence and not because we’re desperate to be dancing queens to forget our troubles.

Photo of Basset HoundDroopy Eyes

Apparently we have droopier eyes in a recession too because we don’t get as much sleep during the worrying times and also because our ability and willingness to throw thousands of pounds into cosmetic surgery wanes. As soon as the economy brightens up, though, so do our eyelids.



Two people at a romantic dinner with blindfolds onBlind Dates

Blind dates go on the up when the economy is down as we seek solace in romance. Not surprisingly, romantic novels also do well. As soon as more money comes in though, it’s ‘so-long soldier, I’ve got my cash to keep me warm’ and more of us are young, free and single again.


Crocodile on grass with mouth openCrocodiles

One section of the population that definitely lucks-out in a recession and really doesn’t want us to get our jobs and spending-power back is the crocodile sector. During a financial down-turn we buy fewer crocodile handbags and similar luxury accessories. So the crocodile hunters are sitting on their hands waiting for an upturn. Good news for the scaly creatures – if only they knew!


(thanks to David Kuo from The Motley Fool and Cliff D’Arcy, our blogger for the help with the research)


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