The National Bureau of Economic Research says we're not out of the recessionary woods yet, though some think the economy is looking up. Floyd Norris of the Times, for one, thinks the numbers are pointed in the right direction. (More over at The Atlantic Wire.) Restaurants certainly seem to be rebounding.
Today, I stumbled across another intriguing indicator. It's called the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity -- LIRA for short. Produced regularly by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, the index measures "national homeowner spending on improvements for the current quarter and subsequent three quarters," and aims to track "future turning points in the business cycle of the home improvement industry." The graph charts the trend.
The plunge from 2007 through 2008 is striking. But a turnaround does seem to be in the works. Harvard's Nicolas Retsinas, who directs the Joint Center, notes that: "The LIRA suggests annual spending will accelerate, with nearly five percent growth in 2010."
It's hard to tell whether the LIRA signals a broader economic recovery. It may be that people who can't sell their homes are deciding that, if they have to stay put, they might as well renovate. If that's the case, now may be the time to start that renovation project you've been putting off -- well before the good contractors start getting booked.