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Hoppy days?

There are probably as many economic indicators as there are economists.

There is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which this week leapt to its highest close since September 2008 after the Federal Reserve announced plans to buy $600 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds.

There are private payroll jobs, which last month grew at a faster clip, almost double what analysts had predicted. Private payroll growth for October was reported yesterday at 159,000 jobs, the best since April.

Then there is the "suds index" — beer sales. Sales of mainstream American light beers — Miller Lite, Coors Light and Bud Light — have risen a little over 2 percent in last four weeks, compared to sales the same time last year. This is encouraging news to big brewers, because overall their sales this year have been skunky.

Big beer is looking at a 2 percent to 3 percent drop in sales by volume this year. A big reason for the dip, according to MillerCoors CEO Leo Kiely, is unemployment among men ages 21-35. This age group drinks a lot of beer, and as Mr. Kiely points out, has experienced unemployment rates running close to 15 percent. Perhaps the recent surge in sales means light beer drinkers are feeling better about their job prospects.

Meanwhile, on the craft beer front, where prices and flavor profiles of brews are higher, brewers are feeling flush. Sales were up 9 percent by volume for craft beers in the first half of 2010. This comes on top of 7 percent increase in volume posted last year.

Economists, being economists, can still debate whether the nation's glass is half empty or half full. But beer drinkers, being beer drinkers, will likely enjoy these hoppier days.

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