Logically, it makes sense to consider other indicators that may be more accurate, especially if they directly reflect the flow of capital within the microeconomic climate of the family home as an indicator of economic health.
There are a lot of those, too. Among the best (most whimsical, least irrelevant) is the Tooth Fairy Poll, a phone survey conducted by Delta Dental Plans that tracks the average payout to children for each tooth.
That number, according to figures released yesterday, dropped by 42 cents to an average of $2.10 during the past 12 months.
The drop reflects the Tooth Fairy's need "to tighten her belt in 2011, but she's hopeful for a recovery this year," according to Chris Pyle, mouthpiece for Delta Dental.
Is the Tooth Fairy revenue stream a good indicator of where the economy is going? Probably not, though it is taken surprisingly seriously by financial analysts and writers.
The Tooth Fairy may not predict accurately whether those IT managers really will follow through with their plans to hire FTEs late this year rather than contractors.
It does indicate changes in the disposable, available cash within American households, however.
That's more an indication of how well or poorly jobseekers are doing right now, not an indication for the future.
Reducing or cutting off payment for body parts to children, who take such things very seriously, is not a trivial decision for most parents. Serious drops in the average Tooth Fairy payment reflects not just available cash, but increases in emotional pain caused by poor economic outlooks.
Somehow that seems like too much weight for a metric with the words "Tooth Fairy" in the name, but the more I read or think about it the less ridiculous it sounds. Not that it's entirely serious or credible, just less ridiculous.
That's what most of us want for the economy, too. It seems too much do demand a huge turnaround and serious growth. It seems a little more reasonable to hope for less ridiculousness – like hiring temps or contractors to fill open jobs and putting off FTE hiring until later this year, reorganizing IT and business units to try to squeeze even more productivity out of already-lean work teams.
Just a few more good old-fashioned jobs that might make us feel less like the economy is moving steadily in one direction for a little while, rather than flitting all over the place unpredictably (like, say an airborne Fairy) without ever quite landing where it could deliver the goods to parents as well as sleeping kids.
Delta Dental Plans