When you walk around Sherman Oaks, and other parts of Los Angeles, you can "feel" the soft economy by looking at the signs around town.
No question about it, the sign "For Lease" has become the flag of the economic downturn. Last time we checked, the vacancy rate among retailers on Ventura Boulevard was 14%, but since then a number of new "For Lease" signs have been posted on empty storefronts.
Another sign that has popped up on major retail streets are make-shift ones that say, "We Buy Gold."
Of course, Continental Coin on Sepulveda Boulevard has been buying gold jewelry for forty years. The manager, Jeff Ringer says, "the number of people coming in to sell their jewelry has increased because of what's happening with the economy. Business is booming because people are converting their gold jewelry into cash that's needed."
But other retailers like , on Ventura Boulevard which has specialized in consignment sales and antiques, have now posted new signs that say," We buy jewelry, gold and silver."
On the streets, young men hold flash signs that say,"We buy gold."
Economists say the recession technically ended in June 2009, but analysts are now talking about the possibility of a double dip recession.
In a sense, signs posted on major retail streets in Sherman Oaks tell us that the possibility of another economic downturn could be looming.
There's more. Sherman Oaks does not have a large homeless population, but residents have noticed an increase in the number of homeless people sleeping in doorways, alleys and under the freeways.
Deby Sencer, a Sherman Oaks resident, writes to tell us that she has been bringing food and water to a homeless man who sits under the 405 freeway overpass on Ventura Boulevard.
She's never seen him there before.
" He's there from early in the morning to the evening," writes Deby.
The number of supermarket shopping carts that are filled with the belongings of homeless people has also increased. On Hazeltine Avenue just north of Ventura Boulevard, there is a row of carts that are loaded with things like blankets and other items that would seem to help someone survive on the streets.
So perhaps we don't need the economists to tell us what phase the American economy is going through. Look around you, the streets of Sherman Oaks may offer a micro snapshot of what's actually happening in the larger economy.