The U.S. economy, more so than other worldwide economies, is largely based on how investors and, ultimately, consumers, feel. Typically, we measure economic strength or weakness using the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, which is historically thought of as the broadest measure of economic activity.
But, while GDP may be a good measure of the whole economy (and it may not be, but that's another story), we wanted to take the temperature of the things that matter to you, and how you feel. How you feel affects how you spend, and that's what really matters in this economy.
We've taken a long, hard look at five measures of the economy that reflect how things really are out there, to see if your fears and concerns are justified. The measures we chose are those which we "touch" on a daily basis.
We charted them on a scale of 0-to-10: 0 being the worst that each of them have been since 1980; 10 being the best.
We decided to make 1980 our starting point because experts agree that the economy before then was so different from what it is now that it would be like comparing apples and oranges.