Underwear to Doughnuts: Recession Signs

box underwear

After months of negative economic news, one of President Obama's top advisers sounded a note of optimism this week.

"The sense of a ball falling off a table, which is what the economy has felt like -- we can be reasonably confident that's going to end within the next few months and you'll no longer have that sense of a free-fall," Lawrence Summers, the White Houses's chief economic adviser, told a meeting of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Thursday.

But Summers remains cautious, and with good reason: According to a survey by The Wall Street Journal, most economists don't think the job market will begin to recover until the middle of next year, even though the recession is expected to end in September.

"The end of the decline isn't the beginning of the recovery," David Resler of Nomura Securities Inc., told the newspaper. "It's like a boxing match. Even if you win the fight, it's not going to feel as good when you get out of the ring as when you went in."

A look at some unique economic indicators is also not very encouraging.

A survey by the research company Mintel projects a 2.3 percent drop in men's underwear sales this year. It's a statistic that may evoke giggles, but some, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, take it quite seriously: Greenspan reportedly once told a National Public Radio correspondent that because men's underwear sales are usually flat, when they dip, that's a sign of trouble.

Then there's cardboard box shipping -- cardboard boxes are used to hold food, computers and much more. In February, corrugated cardboard box shipments fell more than 8 percent in comparison to last year, The Associated Press reported. Because the number of boxes being shipped depends on demand from retailers who, in turn, make decisions based on demand from consumers, a decrease in shipments is another bad sign for the economy.

Sticking With Dougnuts

But in a recession, some products emerge as particularly popular, and right now that includes doughnuts. Doughnut maker Krispy Kreme has seen its stock rise 56 percent in the just the last four weeks.

Experts say that in the midst of hard times, it's those little luxuries like doughnuts that people just don't want to give up.

ABC News' Alice Gomstyn contributed to this report.