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Examples Of Lagging Economic Indicators And The Importance - BlackBird Finance

Examples Of Lagging Economic Indicators And The Importance

In the realm of economics, indicators serve as crucial tools for understanding the health and trajectory of an economy. The three economic indicators are leading, coincident, and lagging. We will focus on and provide examples of lagging economic indicators. Lagging indicators play a significant role in offering insights into past economic performance. But what exactly are lagging indicators, and why do past economic indicators matter? Let’s delve into the world of lagging economic indicators to highlight their importance and provide examples for better comprehension.

What are Lagging Indicators?

Lagging indicators are metrics that follow behind changes in the economy. Unlike leading indicators, which provide hints about future economic trends, lagging indicators reflect historical data and confirm long-term trends or reversals. They essentially reflect economic activity that has already occurred, offering a retrospective view of the economy’s performance.

Why are Lagging Economic Indicators Important?

While leading indicators are helpful in forecasting economic trends, lagging indicators are equally crucial for validating those predictions and providing a comprehensive understanding of economic conditions. They offer confirmation of trends and can help policymakers, businesses, and investors make informed decisions by providing insights into the stability and sustainability of economic changes.

Now, let’s explore some examples of lagging economic indicators:

  1. Prime Interest Rate: The prime interest rate is the interest rate that commercial banks charge their most creditworthy customers. It serves as a benchmark for various loans and financial products. The prime rate tends to change slowly in response to shifts in the broader economy, making it a lagging indicator. Changes in the prime rate reflect past decisions by central banks regarding monetary policy and can indicate shifts in borrowing costs for businesses and consumers.
  2. Consumer Price Index (CPI): The CPI measures changes in consumer prices of a basket of goods and services. It is a widely used indicator for inflation, reflecting the average price level changes over time. As a lagging indicator, the CPI confirms inflationary trends that have already occurred. Rising CPI figures indicate increased consumer prices and reduced purchasing power while falling CPI suggests deflationary pressures.
  3. Average Duration of Unemployment: This indicator measures the average time individuals remain unemployed before finding new employment opportunities. It reflects labor market conditions and the efficiency of job matching. A longer average duration of unemployment suggests a weaker job market and slower economic growth, while a shorter duration indicates a healthier labor market.
  4. Amount of Business and Consumer Loans Outstanding: The total amount of outstanding loans to businesses and consumers serves as a lagging indicator of economic activity. During economic expansions, businesses and consumers tend to borrow more to finance investments and consumption, increasing outstanding loans. Conversely, during economic downturns, loan growth may slow down or contract as borrowing demand weakens.

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Where to Find Information on Lagging Economic Indicators?

Various sources offer comprehensive data and analyses for policymakers, businesses, investors, and researchers seeking to access lagging economic indicators. Let’s explore where individuals can find lagging economic indicators to enhance their understanding of economic conditions.

Government Agencies and Departments:
  1. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA): The BEA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides comprehensive data on national economic accounts, including GDP, personal income, and spending. Their website offers access to a wide range of lagging economic indicators, along with detailed analyses and reports.
  2. U.S. Census Bureau: The Census Bureau collects and publishes data on various economic indicators, such as retail sales, construction spending, and manufacturing shipments. Their Economic Indicators page is a valuable resource for accessing lagging economic data at national and regional levels.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): The BLS offers extensive data on labor market indicators, including the unemployment rate, average duration of unemployment, and employment trends by industry and occupation. Their website provides access to detailed reports, surveys, and statistical releases.
Private Sector Research Firms and Data Providers:
  1. Financial Data Providers: Companies like Bloomberg, Reuters, and FactSet offer subscription-based services that provide access to comprehensive economic data, including lagging indicators such as corporate earnings, bond yields, and commodity prices.
  2. Economic Research Institutes: Institutes like the Conference Board and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) conduct economic research and publish reports on lagging economic indicators, including business cycles, consumer confidence, and income distribution.


Related: All you need to know about, Leading Economic Indicators


Leading Economic Indicators: Importance and Examples

Leading indicators precede economic changes, providing forward-looking information to anticipate shifts in economic activity. They help forecast future trends, enabling stakeholders to adjust strategies, mitigate risks, and capitalize on opportunities.

Examples of Leading Economic Indicators:
  1. Stock Market Performance: Reflects investors’ expectations about future economic conditions.
  2. Building Permits: Signals demand for construction, influencing related industries and economic activity.
  3. Consumer Confidence Index (CCI): Rising CCI indicates optimism and potential growth in consumer spending.
  4. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI): Measures manufacturing sentiment, indicating expansion or contraction in economic activity.


Compass in hand guiding in mountains

Coincident Economic Indicators: Importance and Examples

Coincident indicators are metrics that move in conjunction with changes in the business cycle, providing a snapshot of the current economic situation. Unlike leading indicators, which anticipate future trends, coincident indicators offer real-time information about the economy’s present condition. They help policymakers, businesses, and investors assess the current health and performance of the economy, aiding in timely decision-making. 

Examples of Coincident Economic Indicators:
  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Measures total economic output, reflecting immediate shifts in economic activity.
  2. Employment Level: Indicates current labor market conditions, reflecting hiring and layoffs.
  3. Industrial Production Index: Tracks manufacturing, mining, and utilities output, offering real-time economic performance insights.
  4. Retail Sales: Reflects immediate consumer spending patterns, providing insights into economic activity and consumer confidence.


In conclusion, our examples of lagging economic indicators will help your quest to further your understanding of the markets and the economy.  They offer valuable insights into past economic performance, confirming trends and providing a retrospective view of the economy. While they may not directly forecast future economic conditions, they play a crucial role in validating predictions and informing decision-making processes for policymakers, businesses, and investors. Understanding these indicators helps stakeholders navigate the complex landscape of economic dynamics with greater clarity and confidence. Want to talk about the economy with someone? BlackBird Advisors are here to swap thoughts with you anytime. Start the conversation by signing up for a discovery session.


Related: Understanding Lesser-Known Stock Indexes & Major Indexes




General Financial Planning Principles, Professional Conduct, and Regulation. (2022). The College for Financial Planning, Inc.



OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (3.5) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com