Two Minute Tips

Is a recession coming in 2020? Don’t ask the experts — ask your readers

October 23, 2019

Share this article:

Both economic indicators and public sentiment are pointing towards a coming recession. (Image from Pixabay user Pexels)

That rumble you hear on the horizon isn’t just the weather changing in October—there are things bumping in the economic dark that are scaring more U.S. consumers, according to Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index, conducted from September 3-15. 2019.

For the third straight month in a row, more Americans think a recession is coming (49%, up from 40%). Since July, substantially more (48%, up from 37%) are glum about the economy, but that was before the Fed’s interest rate cut in July—the first in a decade–and Chinese tariffs, which some may have was just a threat by President Trump.

It’s the spooky month of October, when things go bump in the dark. Instead of being scared by the rumblings of recession talk, business reporters can help their readers with some smart reporting on these three questions:

Are your readers spooked by talk of a recession?

Ask them. The 1,565 consumers polled by Gallup are evenly split on whether a recession will hit in the next 12 months. Half said a downturn “isn’t too likely” or “not likely at all”—but 49% believe that a recession is “fairly likely” or “very likely” in 2020. The Consumer Sentiment Index from the University of Michigan posted its largest decline since 2012 in August 2019.  

The stock market is still breaking records, and employment is healthy at 3.7%, a 50-year low, so where’s the problem? Gallup conducted the poll just after the President Trump’s decision on Chinese tariffs, which many may have thought was just a threat, and before the latest round of interest cuts by the Fed, the first in a decade. The Consumer Sentiment Index from the University of Michigan posted its largest decline since 2012 in August 2019.  

Why should I care about economic indicators?

Because that’s what the experts study, to understand economic shifts. Reporters can produce a solid explanatory story on this topic for their readers.

Conduct your own online poll, focusing on the 10 key economic indicators and explain them in plain English to your readers. To stay on top of future consumer-oriented stories, set up a schedule of release dates on indicators. Here’s a primer the 10 key economic indicators from the American Association of Individual Investors.

How are your readers preparing for a recession?

This blog asked that question earlier this year. If you haven’t reported this angle yet, do it now; if you reported on consumer strategies earlier, then circle back and find out how your readers have been doing. In fact, create a baseline poll of your own. How many readers have paid off debt, or built up their emergency savings? How many are saving for retirement? How many are living below their means or taken courses to help them boost their wages? Ask your readers for their tips. Online banks are paying over 2% interest on savings account, but 70% of consumers have their cash in low-yield savings,  according to a May 2019 survey by Bankrate.com.

More Like This...

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!