Moving companies are fonts of data that you can use as local economic indicators and context for jobs and housing stories.
The major companies like United Van Lines and Atlas Van Lines actually publish annual statistical reports, which analysts use to study how the economy affects migration patterns. (Unfortunately my state, Michigan, is the undisputed leader in outbound migration, thanks to years of double-digit unemployment.) U-Pack Moving also publishes an annual report packed with regional and national data.
Scan the links above for fodder that applies to your region, but don’t wait till year-end for the next edition. Most moving companies operate as franchises, from the biggies to no-frills firms like Two Men and a Truck. These operators are on the front lines of the residential market and now is a good time to get to know the ones in your area; consider even convening a panel of movers – including some independents who serve lower-income clients – to talk about what they’re seeing and hearing from customers.
Are more people squeezing into multi-generational dwellings? Are they doing more moves from houses to rental units, or emptying out foreclosures on behalf of banks and credit unions? What are corporate clients asking for these days – lots of one-way moves away from your state, or a decent balance of influx and outflow? Are customers cheaping out on the pack-and-ship services, opting to fill their own boxes? What about problems on the other end, or payment woes, or other signs of trouble?
Moving companies – including U-Haul and similar DIY firms, along with related businesses like the self-storage trade – are sources well worth developing for the nitty-gritty insight they provide into the stories behind abstract economic releases.
Planning ahead: Here’s a look at economic and financial events expected next week. Some heavy-duty numbers are coming out in the jobs and housing sector, the nation’s two biggest economic bugaboos. Vehicle sales will be closely watched, too, as analysts are predicting strong growth in July.
Aug. 2: Construction spending
Aug. 3: Domestic car and truck sales. Remember this is a good peg for checking out the fate of shuttered auto dealers in your region, as I mentioned in this previous blog post.
National Association of Realtors pending home sales.Last month this index plummeted to a record low following the expiration of the home buyers’ tax credit; this release is a good peg for checking with real estate agents, title companies and mortgage lenders about the execution rate of contracts signed with the credit in mind. Buyers have until the extended deadline of Sept. 30 to close on properties they bid on before April 30.
Aug. 4: Challenger job cut report
Aug. 5 Monster employment index
Aug. 6: Employment situation – The Bureau of Labor Statistics release considered one of the most important economic indicators.