8 Signs the Economy Is Slumping The economic downturn has had an impact on everything from charitable giving to patronage at brothels in Nevada. With gas prices at record levels, Americans are adjusting to some new paradigms at home, on their commutes and in their free time.
NPR logo 8 Signs the Economy Is Slumping

8 Signs the Economy Is Slumping

Fewer Tricks and Treats. ABC News reports that revenue at Nevada's brothels is down 20 percent to 45 percent. Apparently, soaring gas prices are keeping customers, especially truckers, away from a number of the state's 28 legal brothels.

Charity Begins at Home ... and Stays There. Donations by Americans rose just 1 percent, to $306.4 billion, in 2007, up from $294.9 billion in 2006, according to the Giving USA Foundation. Although charitable giving broke the $300 billion mark for the first time in 2007, volatility in the equity markets in 2008 has eroded people's confidence, says fundraising consultant Jimmie Alford, chairman of The Alford Group.

Bad News: No School Bus. Good News: More Exercise. With budget cuts and rising gas prices, some school districts have been forced to cut transportation costs. Some districts are scrapping field trips, using mapping software to squeeze every drop out of the fuel tank or asking drivers to cut back on engine idling. In Montgomery County, Md., outside Washington D.C., the school board this week decided that it might do away with bus service for students living a certain distance from school. More students would have to get to school on their own, by foot, by bike or by catching a ride with their parents.

Putting Mettle to the Pedal. Bicycle stores are reporting two trends: a lot more interest and sales attributed to people looking for bikes for transportation, and an uptick in service and repair for older bikes, says Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. In 2007, dealers sold 12.8 million bicycles to adults — a figure that Clements expects will remain stable for 2008.

Born to Be Wild ... on Two Wheels. Rising gas prices are leading more people to transition out of their cars and on to motorcycles and scooters. The Hartford Courant reports that sales of new scooters have risen 24 percent, while sales of smaller motorcycles are up 7.5 percent.

Commuter Angst. People considering purchasing and selling a home are taking a closer look at what that investment will mean in terms of their commute. The Minneapolis–St. Paul Star Tribune reports that some real estate agents see increased potential for sales of properties in city neighborhoods with easy access to bike paths and public transportation.

Trucking Companies Take the Off-Ramp. In the first quarter of 2008, 935 trucking companies that operate with five or more trucks went out of business, up from 385 for the same period a year ago, according to Avondale Partners, an investment banking and equity research firm. Companies with five or more trucks operate the vast majority of trucks in the industry, according to the American Trucking Association.

"For many trucking companies, fuel prices have surpassed labor as the No. 1 cost. That has never happened before," says Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Association. Diesel fuel prices have risen to an average of $4.65 per gallon nationwide, compared to $2.84 for the same period a year ago, he says.

Movie Magic Salves Money Woes. The National Association of Theatre Owners analyzed seven economic downturns dating back to 1965: "In five of them, both box office and admissions went up," says Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research. That appears to be the case this summer: Attendance at movie theaters is estimated to be up about 2 percent, according to the association, and box office revenue for the summer is already about 5 percent higher than last year.

Compiled by NPR staff.