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With pundits and politicians muddying the waters about where the economy is going, it helps to know what some solid indicators of recovery might look like. Here are five surprising indicators that, according to Forbes, can give you a good idea of what is happening with the economy.

1. Denim Sales

Because they are inexpensive, jeans are among the first items that people buy when the economy starts to recover. It’s a way to ease back into buying apparel. Denim sales jumped in the first part of 2009, as compared to the first part of 2008.

2. Hotel Cancellations

When the economy is struggling, hotel cancellations — from personal getaways to business conferences — rise. People are reluctant to spend money on what is considered unnecessary. From October 2008 to March 2009, reports Forbes, cancellations at the MDM Mirage in Las Vegas were up more than 50%. However, that number has come down and event planners are starting to book hotel conference space for next year and 2011.

3. Restaurant Trash

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When restaurants see their garbage bins fill up, it’s a sign that people are eating out again. During tough economic times, restaurants tend to see a decline in business as customers stay away, opting to save money by cooking at home. When things start to improve, the bins fill up faster. Some restaurant owners are starting to feel better about the smell emanating from behind their establishments.

4. Pink Ties

Wardrobe is often an indication of how people feel about their situation. When confidence is low, drab colors are in as concern is expressed through clothing choices. When confidence returns, however, bright colors become the main choice for apparel. With men, ties are often the easiest (and least expensive) way to make a wardrobe change. As the economic climate improves, expect to see more pink and other brightly colored ties.

5. Shopping Bags

During the recession, department stores saw an increase in foot traffic, but not an increase in sales. Many people still like to get out and window shop, but they know that when times are tight they can’t actually buy anything. So you’ll notice that few people seem to be carrying shopping bags. That all changes when the economy improves. As people become more confident about spending their money, you are likely to see the reappearance of shopping bags to carry their new purchases.

So, next time you are wondering whether or not the economy is really improving, head down to your local mall and count the shopping bags and pink ties. And, if you’re hungry, get a bite to eat. Don’t forget to check behind the restaurant for a large pile of trash.

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