Economic Indicators


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In this lesson you will be able to retrieve up-to-date, key economic statistics which will provide valuable hints about the state of the future economy. Economic Indicators are divided into three categories:usa

Leading Indicators - anticipate a business cycle by tending to turn down before the down cycle begins and to turn up before the expansionary cycle begins.  These Primary Leading Economic Indicators are as follows:

  • Average weekly hours, manufacturing
  • Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance
  • Manufacturers' new orders, consumer goods and materials
  • Vendor performance, slower deliveries diffusion index
  • Manufacturers' new orders, nondefense capital goods
  • Building permits, new private housing units
  • Stock prices, 500 common stocks
  • Money supply, M2
  • Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds
  • Index of consumer expectations


Coincident Indicators - run in sync with the business cycle.  These Coincident Indicators are as follows:

  • Number of employees on nonagricultural payrolls
  • Industrial production
  • Personal income minus transfer payments
  • Manufacturing and trade sales volume


Lagging Indicators - follow changes in the business cycle.  These Primary Lagging Indicators are as follows:

  • Average duration of unemployment
  • Manufacturing and trade inventories
  • Commercial loans
  • Ratio of consumer debt to personal income
  • Change in labor cost per unit of output, manufacturing
  • Short-term interest rates

The major source of the above indices is The Conference Board


In this lesson you will identify sources for macroeconomic data, interpret data, describe the present state of the economy using current data, and use data to predict the state of the economy one year from now.


Information is a scarce resource.  You will become better informed about current economic information through this lesson.

Try this scavenger hunt activity using these four data sources: 

Answer the following questions:

  1. Is gasoline cheaper today than it was in 1959?
  2. What was the unemployment rate in February 1999?
  3. What is the outstanding public debt as of today? Go to to find out.
  4. To whom is outstanding public debt owed?
  5. What is the trend in the personal saving rate?
  6. How much of a problem is inflation so far in 2004?
  7. By how much did the Gross Domestic Product change in the fourth quarter of 2003? 

Write an essay describing the current state of the economy and predict the state of the economy one year from now.  Be sure to include statistics from the web sites above. 

For quick access to current economic data, be sure to visit the DataLinks section of this web site.