It's been said that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. But when it comes to the health of the overall U.S. economy, perhaps the opposite holds true? If one takes account of state-level data that suggests many parts of the country are still struggling to regain their pre-recession footing, as well as a steady flow of reports like those that follow (not to mention the fiscal stresses that various municipalities are having to contend with), talk of a "recovery" seems somewhat fallacious.
"Recession Recovery? Not Around Here" (Central Valley Business Times)
The recession is getting worse, not better, in the heart of the Central Valley, according to a new study released Monday by the Craig School of Business at Fresno State.
For the first time since initiating the survey in September 2010, the San Joaquin Valley “Business Conditions Index” has sunk below growth neutral, says th survey’s author, Ernie Goss of the Goss Institute for Economic Research in Denver.
The survey of individuals making company purchasing decisions in firms in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties indicates that growth for the first half of 2011 will be weak. The index, a leading economic indicator for the area, is produced using the same methodology as that of the national Institute for Supply Management.
"Impact of Recession Lingers Through 2010" (The [Scranton] Times-Tribune)
The hangover from the Great Recession dominated regional business and economic developments in 2010.
Unemployment in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton metro area topped 10 percent for six of the first 10 months of the year and was at 10.1 percent in October, dipping to 9.7 percent in November. The region had the state's highest unemployment rate from May through November.
Layoffs and plant closings, rising foreclosures and bankruptcies created a feeling that the June 2009 conclusion of a devastating recession starting in December 2007 was only a statistical technicality. The region's unemployment rate has hovered above 9 percent since August 2009.
"This is a very, very slow and extremely painful recovery," said Anthony Liuzzo, Ph.D., a Wilkes University professor of business and economics "We still have to climb out of the hole we are in."
The Utah Food Bank has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of hungry people asking for help, compared to last year. And while a national study says that actual hunger and what it calls "food insecurity" may be declining since a mid-recession high in late 2009, the needs remain fairly astounding. An estimated 16.67 percent of households struggled to feed their families during the first half of 2010.
"We are continuing to see an increase in requests for food assistance," said Jessica Pugh, spokeswoman for the food bank, which supplies 150 food pantries and agencies across the Beehive state. "More families than ever are requesting food assistance. People have had hours cut back in terms of regularly paying jobs. Or they have had seasonal jobs that ended. It is a tough time for so many families throughout Utah."
"Hard Road for Mississippi to Recover Jobs" (Associated Press)
Struggling back from the Great Recession has been a hard road for Mississippi. And although there are bright spots in the works for 2011 and beyond, economic forecasts say the state's recovery will be a yearslong process — provided another national slowdown is not in the works.
From February 2008 to October 2010, Mississippi lost about 71,000 jobs, or 5.8 percent of its work force, according to state economist Darrin Webb.
At the same time, though, the Mississippi Development Authority, armed with government expansion and relocation incentives, said in a recent report that it attracted commitments for $1.53 billion in new business investment to the state in 2010 with the promise of just over 6,400 new jobs.
And 2011 is the year Mississippi's second major auto manufacturing plant is scheduled to open. Toyota's plant near Blue Springs is expected to have an initial payroll of 1,000, eventually growing to 2,000. Along with that, auto suppliers are expected to add another 1,500 to 2,000 jobs.
But the difference between the list of new jobs and the number that have disappeared illustrates how deep the downturn has been for the state. According to a recent forecast by the state Institutions for Higher Learning, Mississippi likely won't reach its record employment — set in 2000 — until at least 2015.
"This economy has just taken a terrible hit from this recession," Webb said.
"Where the Jobs Aren’t" (The Oklahoman)
Manufacturing, construction labor forces faltering
Oklahomans looking for jobs in the manufacturing and construction industries will continue to have a tough time this year.
Those sectors are still struggling to recover from the recession and are expected to continue shedding jobs in 2011, according to local experts.
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission predicts a two-year loss of 12,650 manufacturing jobs and 5,100 construction jobs for the period ending in mid 2011.
Many of those jobs will never be replaced, because manufacturers have automated and updated equipment, so they can operate with fewer workers, said Russell Evans, director of the Center for Economic Analysis and Policy at Oklahoma State University.
“It’s unlikely those jobs will come back,” Evans said. “It’s unlikely there will be the same labor needs.”
"Fewer Employers Expected at Rutgers Job Fair" (The Record)
Job seekers at Thursday's Rutgers University annual job fair, thought to be the biggest college-organized fair in the state, will find the pickings slimmer than last year.
Even as the economy shows signs of improving, about 15 percent fewer employers will be at the fair than a year ago, the organizers said Monday.
The college had hoped to see more than the low of 163 employers who attended a year ago, said Richard White, director of career services at Rutgers University New Brunswick. White expects about 135 to 140 employers this year.
"I think it suggests that the economy is still trying to grow, but really things are not booming," he said. "We thought we had turned the corner. … We were hoping to be above 163."
"State Economy Unchanged in November" (News & Observer)
The state's economic health stayed flat from October to November, signaling a continued anemic economic recovery in 2011.
That's the prognosis from N.C. State University economist Michael Walden, who compiles and parses leading economic indicators for the state each month.
The North Carolina economic index was 1.2 percent higher in November from a year ago, but it would have to be at 4 percent for the economy to merit a robust diagnosis. The Chinese economy, for example, has been growing at an annual rate of 8 percent to 10 percent for the past decade.
One of the significant drags on the state's economy is a 4.5 percent decline in building permits from October to November. The permits have declined 11.5 percent in the past year, according to data Walden culled from the N.C. Association of Realtors.
"Bankruptcy Filings Hit 5-Year High" (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Homeowners struggling with mortgages contribute to a spike in Chapter 13 cases and an overall increase of 27.5 percent
While tourists are spending more and home prices have begun to climb, Hawaii's economy still has a long way to go before erasing the negative effects of the recession.
The federal Bankruptcy Court reported yesterday that 3,954 Hawaii residents and businesses filed for bankruptcy last year, the highest level in five years and a 27.5 percent increase over 2009.
"We're still feeling the effects of the tough job market. A lot of people who are filing either lost their job or can't find a job that pays as well as their last job," said attorney Jean Christensen.
"At some point you would expect to see some saturation in bankruptcy filings in 2011 or 2012," Christensen said. "But there probably isn't enough certainty in the economy for the job market to improve dramatically in the near future."
The Salvation army says 2010 was a banner year for the wrong reason. More of the needy "needing" help than ever.
"I've seen a lot of the economic trends of the country, seen some recessions over the last 30 years and this one certainly is deep and it's effected the service of the salvation army obviously having to do a lot more service then we've had to in the past," said Major Mark Martsolf with the Olathe Salvation Army. Major Martsolf said 'need' is not seasonal.
The Salvation Army says it saw a 40 percent increase in services in 2010 metro wide. Although the Salvation Army said it will remain optimistic in 2011, the organization is gearing up for another tough year.
"Unemployment Picture Said to Be Improving — But Not All That Fast" (The New Mexican)
Business news made headlines in 2010, mainly because of the weak economy and persistent unemployment, which was the biggest business story of them all, especially if you lost your job and tried looking for another.
In Santa Fe, the October Labor Market Review indicated that the local unemployment rate was 7 percent, compared with 6.9 percent a year ago. The highest unemployment rate in Santa Fe in 2010 was 7.4 percent in March.
Through October, there was a loss of 100 jobs in Santa Fe in 2010.
For that same time period, three industries gained jobs. They were education and health services, government, and miscellaneous other services.
Losses of 100 jobs each were reported by professional and business services, wholesale trade and construction.
"The Santa Fe job market has been weak for over two years but is improving," according to the state Labor Market Review.
But Larry Waldman, an economist formerly with The University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said recovery will take years.
"Economic Hardship Takes Personal Toll" (The Providence Journal)
Three years after the recession officially began, more people are worrying about layoffs, underemployment and an uncertain future, experts say.
“People are just exhausted, and they have fears about the economic future,” says Elizabeth V. Earls, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Council of Community Mental Health Organizations in Cranston.
The demand for counseling jumped 10 percent from 2008 to 2009, a trend that has continued through 2010, says Earls.
Although it’s harder to document, the recession has also sparked more cases of drug and alcohol use and domestic violence, she adds.
“Frankly, it has impacted our system.”
"Most Have Trouble Making Food Stamps Last" (Chillicothe Gazette)
LANCASTER -- A couple of kids were trying to entertain themselves in a dull food pantry waiting room, but the adults among them were quiet.
However, there was a sense of community as each person was called to walk through the four long walls of wire shelves chock full of cereal, canned goods and personal care items. A refrigerator full of milk and cheese and three freezers full of meat were waiting for them.
It was the end of the month. Christy Dilley, 26, and Natasha Blankenship, 27, both young mothers in Lancaster, were there for the same reason: their government food assistance didn't stretch far enough. This was common for many in the room.
In November, more than 1.7 million Ohioans spent $241.1 million in Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program funds, commonly known as food stamps, which are funded by the federal government. Almost three-fourths of that amount was spent in the first half of the month, and 30 percent was spent in the first five days.
The number on food assistance has increased 55 percent since 2007, and 118 percent since 2002, based on September numbers from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
"For Homeless Students, School Problems Compound" (Tri-City Herald)
The growing problem of homelessness is affecting education nationally, statewide and here in Benton and Franklin counties.
Homelessness is not just the fellow on a downtown street asking for a handout.
It's also a family problem, a sometimes short-term experience with long-term repercussions.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has released figures showing that homelessness among students in Washington state has been growing for the past five years, at least.