The US government has just released its latest employment figure.  148,000 jobs were created last month, far fewer than hoped and far less than needed.  The numbers did, however, reduce the unemployment percentage down to 7.2%, a drop of 0.1%.

Even this is misleading.

What’s happening is that many people have given up looking for a job altogether.  These include many who formerly earned good salaries but can now only find low-paid jobs.

That 148,000 figure also hides the fact that many of the jobs are part-time jobs that offer no benefits.  Why would employers take on full-time staff right now when that means they have to provide medical care under the new Affordable Care Act?

In short, it’s very difficult trying to figure the economy out when government statistics are so deceptive and do not even attempt to give the full picture.  With 148,000 jobs supposedly created last month, Administration spokesmen will no doubt boast of a great accomplishment and those employed by government (on average, receiving double the remuneration of people in the private sector) will continue to think the economy is improving and that everything is ok.

They should all go check out the “Aldi Barometer!”

I’ve mentioned Aldi before.  It’s one of the fastest growing grocery chains in the US and around the world.  We have two of them here in the Lansing area and there are two in my hometown in the UK.  They claim they can reduce your grocery bill by 40%.

Aldi is a no-frills grocery store.  Your groceries will not get bagged, you don’t even get a free shopping cart (trolley) – you have to put a quarter in a gadget attached to the cart, then you can use it, receiving your quarter back at the end when you return the cart.  This saves money on hiring somebody to retrieve the carts as other stores do.

Aldi does not sell brand names but they claim that all their no-brands are just as good.  I would agree, except for their tea!

So, what exactly is the Aldi Barometer?  It’s purely a figment of my own imagination but I still think it’s reliable.

It comes down to this – the busier Aldi is, the worse the economy is!

People shop at Aldi when money is tight, when every penny has to count.

A poll in the Wall Street Journal recently found that, for the first time since they started polling, people are concerned about having enough money to buy groceries.  After healthcare and retirement, groceries were the third biggest concern.

The latest Consumer Sentiment survey showed that 71% of people think the economy is bad and getting worse.  Clearly, there’s something very wrong.

We have an Aldi close to us.  On Sunday, we drove by twice.  Each time I was planning on going in to buy a couple of items but I finally decided to wait until Monday morning.  The first time I went into the store the lines were so long I decided to wait; the second time I couldn’t even find a parking space.

I’ve also noticed that more and more affluent-looking people are shopping there, driving up in newish SUV’s and wearing expensive clothes.  I’ve even overheard people confiding to friends that they never thought they would go to an Aldi but they are there –openly admitting they have financial problems.

Although they do take EBT cards (food stamps), most of the customers I’ve seen either pay cash or use debit cards (no checks or credit cards).

Sunday seems to be their busiest day, suggesting that most of their customers have full-time jobs Monday through Friday.  I’m told Saturday is also a very busy day at the store.

Aldi isn’t the only barometer of the country’s economy.

Food banks report increased demand on their services.

The ever-increasing number of thrift shops selling second hand clothes and other used items is another good indicator.

As is the declining number of good restaurants and the obvious lack of business in those that survive.

I don’t expect our local movie theater to last much longer, either – their parking lot is usually empty (perhaps they can rent spaces to Aldi customers across the street?).  Who can afford a movie and popcorn nowadays?

I realize things may be different in other parts of the country.  There must be some areas doing well.  Actually, Michigan’s economy has been improving – Governor Rick Snyder has made some good pro-business decisions following years of bad ones under his predecessor, who is now advising President Obama on economic development issues!  But we still have a long way to go.  It’s not Michigan that’s the problem so much – it’s Washington.

Before next month’s employment stats are published by the federal government, perhaps some of their employees could pay a visit to Aldi, assuming they even know how to find one.  On their much-better-than-average salaries, they have never had a need to go!

(I will keep checking the Aldi Barometer and share the information with you.)


  1. Another sign of poverty is the Aldi’s nearest competitor in terms of price, Save-A-Lot. They are the only major chain grocery store that still operates within the city limits of Detroit. They found a niche: Catering to the urban poor.

    My experiences with Aldi’s have been normally positive. Most of their store brands have comparable quality to national brands or at least the store brands of other stores. (Years ago, however, I found their store brand cola to be absurdly too sweet). One needs to be careful in buying fruits and vegetables from them, since they don’t seem to be as careful in removing what’s started to go bad. They can undercut Wal-mart and Sam’s Club in their prices, if one is willing to buy store brands at Aldi’s in place of Wal-mart’s national brands. Because the selection of Aldi’s and Save-A-Lot are somewhat restrictive, inevitably it’s necessary to shop at larger grocery stores with wider selections for certain items. Aldi’s recently has started to carry more national brands, and they long have imported certain European, especially German, products for a bit of luxury “cachet.” They are to be respected for what they do: Notice how they import certain European practices, such as having their cashiers sit, not stand, as in the American style.

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