There are several US economic indicators, which seem to do a good job historically, at predicting recessions. These are called leading indicators. The special thing about these indicators is that they all make their move BEFORE each of the previous recessions. FYI, just so you know, the opposite would be lagging indicators, which tell us that we are in a recession already.
Here are the leading indicators I’ve found thus far, with the chart to show you where the given indicator stands at the moment, and how it correlates to previous recessions.
Chicago Fed Midwest Economy Index
Inversion of the yield curve
The yield curve inverted just prior to every U.S. recession in the past 50 years. Here is the proof, it is very reliable. The inversion takes place on average 12 months before the start of the recession. The lead times range from 5 to 16 months. The top in the stock market can be seen at around the time of the inversion of the yield curve, before the recession starts and corporate profits tank.
A relatively new company called Reality Shares has developed an index of sort, which measures market price momentum and volatility to identify likely market downturns and upturns. Their index is new, but back-testing it shows interesting results leading up to the previous 2 recessions.
If you see any of the above leading indicators becoming worrisome, you have every right to start getting anxious. If more of them start going bad at once, start preparing. If all of them point to a recession, get out and run for the hills.