Once a year in this space it’s fun to see how the numbers support some of the major theories and developments of the day. Well, I find it useful anyway. You can take the numbers with a grain of salt or you can trust that decades of information-processing by your columnist have enabled him to identify trustworthy sources


The world gets more complicated all the time, and even the really smart people are acting a little jumpy. In less than a month’s time, for instance, Steve Wynn ditched Philadelphia and Atlantic City and began openly speculating about moving his company’s headquarters from Las Vegas to Macau. Reminds me of my college days when we were all going to have to learn Japanese to survive in the world.

Or maybe, as they say, this time it’s different. So, with no further ado, let’s see if numbers can shed any light on this ascendant social-media-pseudo-economic-recovery-pending-inexorable-decline-of-the-Western-World-and-rise-and-future-dominance-of-Asia thing and what it all says about the future:

•  Number of users of Facebook as of February 2010: 400 million

•  Number of users of Facebook one year earlier: less than 200 million

• Facebook’s share of all social media traffic: 41 percent

• Growth rate of unique Facebook visitors year-to-year, March 2010: 45 percent

• Number of Tweets per day in 2009: 2.5 million

• Number of Tweets per day in 2010: 50 million

• Number of people signing up each day to Tweet: 30,000

• Percentage of Twitter accounts with no followers at all: 25 percent

Country with highest social networking participation rates (Accenture survey of 16,000 consumers in eight countries): Malaysia (85 percent).

Rank of other countries: India (83 percent), Singapore (81 percent), United States (75 percent), China (73 percent), Germany (52 percent), France (50 percent), Japan (28 percent).

• Estimated total U.S. advertising revenue, 2010 (Magna survey): $167.7 billion

• Television advertising revenue, 2010: $54.8 billion

• Online advertising revenue, 2010: $24.9 billion

• Forecast total advertising spending increase, 2010: plus-3 percent

• Actual total advertising spending decrease, 2009: minus-9 percent

• Actual local newspaper advertising spending decrease, 2009: minus-27.2 percent

• Actual online advertising spending decrease, 2009: minus-3 percent

• Present U.S. unemployment rate: 9.7 percent

• Rate considered by most economists to be “normal”: 5-6 percent

• Average number of people competing for each new job opening: 5.5

• Forecast return to “normal” unemployment levels: 2014-2015

• Actual increase of Fortune 500 company profits in 2009: plus-335 percent

• Actual decrease in Fortune 500 company revenues in 2009: minus-8.7 percent

• Total number of Fortune 500 company job cuts in 2009: 821,000 (the most ever)

• Unit labor cost reductions, total U.S. economy, 2009: minus-4.6 percent (most in postwar history)

• Actual decline of U.S. gross domestic product, 2009: minus-2.4 percent (most in post-war history)

• Forecast increase of 16 Eurozone countries gross domestic product, 2010: 1 percent

• Forecast increase in India’s gross domestic product, 2010: 8.8 percent

• Forecast increase in China’s gross domestic product, 2010: 10 percent

• Overall forecast global economic growth, 2010: 4.2 percent

• Projected global economic growth, 2011: 4.3 percent

• Forecast growth rates in emerging economies, 2010 and 2011: 6.3 percent and 6.5 percent

• Forecast growth rates in advanced economies: 2.3 percent and 2.4 percent

• China’s estimated share of global GDP growth, 2010-2020: 70 percent

So what does all of that say about the future? Like every other country that has enjoyed leadership status in the world, America is obsessed about when it will end. In fact, we are so worried about the future that we are starting to look 40 years out to when we might start eclipsing China again. A new book by Joel Kotkin, “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050,” confidently predicts that America’s future projected fertility rate combined with China’s current population growth crackdown will make us relatively young and newly competitive again. But what about, say, tomorrow? And who cares if we are good at procreating if the offspring don’t have decent schools to attend and a polarized population continually keeps replaying the ’60s until the last Baby Boomer with health insurance is dead? 

I don’t know, maybe Steve Wynn has a point.