'Today': Pawn Shop's Business Indicates 'Bust Economy'

     Journalists have announced all sorts of interesting indicators (like Spam sales) that show an economy in the tank, especially when real indicators show continued growth and stabilization. On June 2, the NBC “Today” show turned to pawn shops.

     “You don’t need to go to Wall Street to see we’re living in tough times,” reporter Kevin Tibbles said. “Telltale signs of an economic slump are all on display at the Royal Pawn Shop in Chicago, where this broker’s business is booming in a bust economy.”

     Tibbles’ “bust economy” grew at 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2008, according to the government’s revised figures, which raised gross domestic product (GDP) growth figures from initial estimates of 0.6 percent.

     But GDP growth, along with still-low unemployment – 5 percent in April 2008 – and fewer than expected job losses in April didn’t stop Tibbles from portraying an economy in ruins.

     “Remnants of better times exchanged for much needed cold, hard cash, in many cases just to make ends meet,” he said, without citing any statistics to show increased patronage of pawn shops. Instead, Tibbles relied on one pawnbroker who said his increased business is a sign of “tough times and tougher times to come.”

     “Just another economic indicator, this one from the street level up,” Tibbles said.

     Tibbles joins a long and growing list of reporters who have created negative economic indicators in the face of steady economy figures. In March, CNN unveiled a sad puppy indicator based on pet abandonment. On May 1, the NBC “Nightly News” created a Craiglist indicator, based on Internet classified ads.

     On May 29, the “Nightly News” announced the Spam indicator, reporting that increased sales of Spam – which is more expensive than fresh meats – indicated a struggling economy. Others have reported indicators based on Starbucks, RV sales and sweaters.