Want to know how the recession is affecting your small part of the world, if at all? Check your workplace refrigerator. In boom times, folks tend to eat out more, especially for lunch. In leaner times, folks bring lunch, especially leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. This, plus a slew of other local economic indicators, tells you more about how the recession is impacting your world, your industry, your company, and your community than all the market metrics combined, because this is the sort of thing you see every day.

Some other indicators? If you work in an office, see how often the cleaning service does things like empty trash or clean the restrooms. Check the quality of consumables like toilet paper – changes, especially significant, fast jumps in quality – indicate that the first stages of cost cutting are occurring, possibly silently. In a tough economy, it’s the prudent thing to do for companies. If your company has a cafeteria, see if food selection and quality change significantly in a short time. Know your admin team really well? Ask them how frequently they’re reordering supplies (supplies tend to go missing at a faster rate in tougher times) and if they’ve been given additional, more stringent purchasing restrictions.

All of these little economic indicators, in and of themselves, mean little, but aggregated may give you a more complete picture of how things are going in your neck of the woods, and can help you plan accordingly. If you see a series of sudden, abrupt changes in your company, it might be time to start looking for another job before it’s too late.

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