Financial experts have predicted a recession, but some unique indicators may tell more

When the November jobs-report was better than expected, it helped financial experts decide what's happening with the economy. A lot of those experts predicted a recession this year, but that has not materialized yet. 

While a lot of those facts and figures aren't always easy to understand, there are some other unique indicators that can show what's going on with consumers.

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While shoppers are expected to spend 'big' for the holidays, a lot of them may overextend themselves to do it. Credit card debt already sits above $1 trillion, and a recent financial survey finds more than a third of consumers expect to carry holiday debt into the new year. 'How' we spend, and 'what' we buy, may give some insight into our economic health.

The idea gained traction with the so-called 'Lipstick Effect' that suggests dwindling trust in the economy prompts consumers to splurge on things that have less impact on their wallets, like quality lipstick.

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Financial planner Mike Crews says it's among indicators that can be closely watched. 

"That's going to be one of the last things that they're willing to cut, so that's the reason that we're looking at whether that's an indicator of recession, if people start cutting back in that area."

Other indicators include:
-Declining men's underwear sales. The product can be out of sight and out of mind, and not quickly replaced as they wear out.
- Tipping declines, as it's seen as a discretionary expense, by some.
- Dating habits change, as singles have less to spend on bars and clubs to meet someone.
- The company fridge fills-up, as more people save a buck by packing their lunch.

With 70% of the economy driven by consumer spending, these indicators can be a proverbial 'canary in a coal mine' that trouble may be ahead. 

"If we zero-in on some of these indexes, we can say, 'Hey, are we seeing a trend ahead of a more obvious trend that consumer spending is cutting back? Is that some signal that we're going into a recession?" says Crews.

Despite all that, it's important to note and remember that 'recessions' are a normal part of the economic cycle. They're going to happen. 

The last two were pretty harsh, but Crews believes the next one may happen in 2024 and be more mild. Either way, while official economic indicators are important, what you see, hear, and experience in day-to-day life will tell you a lot of what you need to know.