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How to Keep Tabs on the Economic Measures That Matter to Your Small Business

August 31st, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

These days, the economy is on a wild ride, and pundits and news outlets are all watching economic indicators with bated breath. But what economic indicators really matter to your small business, and how can you keep track of them yourself to make sure you don’t miss a trick? Here are 5 resources you can use to keep your pulse on the economy.

Consumer Confidence: When confidence is higher, consumers tend to spend more, so keeping track of this measure can help you know when to expect more business or, conversely, cut back on inventory and offer more discounts. One good source of consumer confidence measure is The Conference Board.

Employment Data: You’ll hear statistics about layoffs and job creation announced by all major news outlets, but you can also find monthly employment data online at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For many small businesses, an even more important measure is local employment data, which you can find at the BLS site as well.

Real Personal Consumption Expenditures: To learn whether consumers are spending and see trends in spending, you’ll want to check this indicator, released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Producer Price Index: Particularly important to manufacturers or those who purchase products for resale, this indicator tracks the cost of materials used in manufacturing. Following it will give you early warning if your costs for materials—or for products you buy from manufacturers—are likely to increase. Get the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Dollar Value: When the dollar declines in relation to other currencies, U.S. exports are likely to sell better; at the same time, prices in the U.S. will porbably rise since manufacturers will be paying more for anything they source outside the U.S. This information is also widely reported in daily news, but you can also get it from The U.S. Dollar Index Futures.

Image by Flickr user Horia Varlan (Creative Commons)

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