When looking for economic data that tells us all how we’re all doin’, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.
Long ago, the US was a nation that made stuff. Economic expansions or contractions could be measured by industrial output with a rather high degree of precision. Lower output meant that people were losing their jobs and the nation was slowing down.
The industrial capacity figure hasn’t been used much lately because we don’t rely on manufacturing for the bulk of the jobs anymore. At about 12M jobs, it’s just over 10% of all employment. But it still means a lot, and the results are encouraging.