I think many of us carry around the mental picture of a hot-air balloon sinking and the crew frantically jettisoning unneeded ballast and heavy, low-value cargo to avoid hitting a looming hazard.
The same thing happens as families experience economic stress. In fact, a time-honored way to assess how much economic pain is being felt in your community is to drive around and count the number of items parked beside the road with a "For Sale" sign in the windshield.
Since gas is expensive, a cheaper way to do the same thing is to go to your local Craigslist and type in certain keywords. Then, week-by-week track how many of those items are for sale by local owners.
Examples from the Lansing, Michigan area Craigslist on August 19, 2022:
Boats - by owner: 84
Trailers - by owner: 75
ATV, UTV, Snowmobiles - by owner: 65
Ford cars-and-trucks - by owner: 52
Camper - by owner: 45
Motorcycles - by owner: 44 (Proposed by The Old Man in comments)
Lawn mowers (farm & garden) - by owner: 23 (Proposed by The Old Man)
ERJ Total pain index = 100,000 times 321 key items for sale in the Lansing Metro Area divided by a population 326,000. Multiplying the result by 100,000 makes the index more intuitively pleasing. The ERJ Total Pain Index for Lansing on August 19, 2022 is 98.4
It will be interesting to track this up to the mid-term election and then afterward.
The media focuses on "Wall Street" and jawbones about "Main Street". The ERJ Total Pain Index is an effort to capture what is happening on "Maple Street" where regular folks live.
Boats and ATVS, UTVS and Snowmobiles are seasonal but tend to offset each other.
Most of the items on the list can be characterized as "toys" or discretionary items. Ford cars-and-trucks were included even though vehicles are almost a necessity because some households have a "spare". Also, as the recession deepens and people lose jobs, the second vehicle becomes a luxury and that "spare" that can be sold to temporarily make ends meet. If you choose to replicate the index for your own area-of-operation and you live in a "Blue" area, choosing "Toyota" or "Honda" instead of "Ford" will be a better measure.
"Ford" was included to enable additional diagnostic flexibility as the recession progresses. As starvation progresses, at some point the patient runs out of fat and starts metabolizing muscle and internal organs.
Craigslist allows shoppers to specify whether the seller is an owner or a dealer. I chose to look specifically at owners as I think that is a more responsive metric. Dealer inventory can float or shrink for various reasons other than economic pain.