When trying to determine exactly how America's economy changed during 2018, Bloomberg decided to abandon legacy macroeconomic data in favor of taking a look at the most prevalent social trends throughout the year – and subsequently, what they told us about the economy.
One trend that emerged in 2018 was the American population moving away from small metropolitan areas towards cities. The sidewalk scooter – once a mainstay back around the year 2000 – has made a comeback in cities like Washington and Los Angeles, signaling the changing demographic.
The saga over where Amazon was going to place their headquarters also told us something about the economy in 2018: job creation for big technology industries is concentrating as it grows.
The top 10 metropolitan areas for digital services held 44.3% of all jobs in 2017, but captured 49.1% of jobs added in the sector from 2015 to 2017.
2018 was also the year when the broader population realized that rent inflation was significantly outpacing wage gains. This was confirmed by the rising number people who live in urban areas that are struggling to pay bills. As a result, we’ve seen adults move into dorm-like home-sharing areas and WeWork-style shared working locations.
Naturally, social media like Instagram continues to play a big role in the economy, as online shopping continued growing in 2018. One of the most searched fashion brands of the year was Fashion Nova, which is a budget friendly clothing company that has made itself famous solely via social media. It was a more popular search on Google this year than brands like Louis Vuitton and Versace.
Sneakers also became a growing "alternative investment" in 2018. As we have written in the past about things like art and fine whiskeys, investors are looking to speculate in different markets and those who have been purchasing exclusive sneakers released in small batches have benefited from prices rising over the course of the last year.
And what would a year of social trends be without mentioning bitcoin? While the digital currency has fallen significantly over the course of the year, down from about $17,000 to about $3800 now, it has raised many questions about central banking and the economy that have acted as undertones for the economy this year. Namely: what will the future of money be?
Google searches for the term "self-care" also moved higher this year as items like vitamins, plant-based diets, blankets and even jade facial rollers became popular. The fact that consumers (probably millennials) have money to shell out for conspicuous
feel good crap products like essential oils means that discretionary spending is likely still chugging along - at least, for now.
Finally, the job market has gotten so strong that it has put those looking for open positions in full control. Long gone are the days of courtesy and the traditional two week's notice. Job seekers feel so empowered that some of those who have been dissatisfied with their jobs have even started the trend of “ghosting” employers by simply failing to turn up to work upon finding better employment.
It should be interesting to see how this trend continues in 2019, when the job market is predicted to remain extremely tight even as the economy slows down notably. We'll check back in twelve months from now, when many of today's "empowered" job seekers will likely be unemployed, holding out for positions they think they're worth - in Mom or Dad's basement.