Dr. Farrokh Langdana, professor of finance and economics at the Rutgers Business School, uses surveys of dry cleaning services as an indicator of how many people are participating in the work force. Traditional measures of employment, such as the official unemployment rate, fail to count individuals who have dropped out of the workforce because they are discouraged from finding a job. Changes in dry cleaning demand can indicate a change in the economy that official figures do not capture.
The Rutgers Business School’s Dry Cleaning Index captures change in demand over time. For this week’s Map of the Week, we show the demand difference over space. From the map you can see that there is a “donut hole” in demand for dry cleaning services inside Newark. This does not mean that in downtown Newark there is a lack of demand for dry cleaning services; far from it. Some Morris County residents may be purchasing dry cleaning in Newark, but this map does not reflect that; it only shows average spending on dry cleaning services by people who live in any given census tract.
Residents living in Newark spent an average of $26.77 annually on dry cleaning services in 2015, while residents in adjacent Morris County spent an average of $89.91. For reference, the average spent on dry cleaning in Morris County is higher than the average amount spent in Manhattan, which is $76.19. As an indicator of economic health, it shows there are more professionals laundering their clothes for work or job hunting in Morris County than in Newark.