How the economy is really doing

These five indicators do a good job of showing what's really going on -- and what it feels like -- out there.

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Industrial production
Industrial production
SCORE: 6.7*
This measure may feel a little more removed from you personally, but in fact you encounter it in the volume of packages you send and receive, the number of trucks and freight trains you pass, and the amount of smoke you see being pumped into the air.

Industrial production (IP) measures the change in output of tangible goods. Though not the biggest part of our increasingly service- and knowledge-based economy, it is affected by the cost and availability of credit, as well as by consumer demand. Sometimes IP is affected by non-economic shocks, as when oil rigs shut down in the Gulf of Mexico after hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008. But changes in industrial production are generally driven by economic strength or weakness. And recently factories began staging a modest rebound. If that continues, you should start to feel better about the rest of the economy.


Hussein Saddique and Tali Yahalom contributed to this article.


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Last updated March 02 2011: 5:21 PM ET
* Score is on a scale of 1-10 against their best (10) and worst (1) results since 1980.
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