Cramer: Has UPS called recovery into question?

(Click for video linked to a searchable transcript of this Mad Money segment)

Even the most confident bulls were somewhat shaken by the latest results from UPS.

"I can't tell you how many people I know were using United Parcel as the giant chit in the recovery play," Cramer said.

And now they regret it.

On Friday, UPS pre-released a forecast for profits that came in below Wall Street expectations and shares immediately slipped approximately 6%. The company blamed the weak earnings forecast on a slowing US industrial economy and preference for shipping alternatives that are cheaper, even if they take longer.

"What can I say? How wrong could investors and traders be? A preannouncement of all things. A darned preannounced shortfall And a bad one," Cramer said.

The Mad Money host thinks the forecast can not be ignored. Because UPS ships for both individuals and companies, the results should be considered a signal.

"To me it says that everything you have heard about a strengthening economy must be put on hold," Cramer said.

Going forward, Cramer advocates looking for additional signals that may either confirm or deny the weakness suggested by UPS.

businessman worried confused
Don Bayley | E+ | Getty Images

However, that's not to say, Cramer thinks broad weakness is a foregone conclusion. He doesn't.

"We do know that there are some parts of the economy—at least the U.S. economy—that fly in the face of the UPS preannouncement," Cramer said. "Auto sales are very strong. We know there is job growth. And we got terrific numbers from Gap Stores and Costco—two giant retailers that can't be ignored."

Cramer suspects the UPS results will ultimately reveal something very specific about the economy; that small business growth is languishing.

And Cramer is among the many pros who believe the recovery can not become robust without small business growth.

Although you might think big companies mostly drive the economy, that's not entirely the case.

According to the Small Business Council firms with fewer than 100 workers employ 34.9 percent of private sector payrolls. Also small firms accounted for 65 percent (or 9.8 million) of the 15 million net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009.

"Therefore, the UPS pre-announcement can't be ignored," Cramer insisted.

Read More from Mad Money with Jim Cramer
Celebrate or Fear All-Time High?
Cramer: Pros Make Bundle Doing This
Cramer: Don't Own Wrong Dollar Store

If you're an investor, the Mad Money host thinks the ultimate takeaway is brutal. That is, stocks that typically have worked as a bullish bet on global recovery may not work, this time around.

"For those of you who still believe in the U.S. recovery, you've learned that you can't play it with just anything – you may not even be able to play it with UPS," Cramer said.

Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

Questions for Cramer?

Questions, comments, suggestions for the "Mad Money" website?