Demeur's post "What A Mess" relates current economic conditions in his part of the World. The North West has been hit hard as has most if not all of the country. We all hear about woes in other places but generally it is from news sources and not from the people living them out. Demeur has asked for whoever reads his post to relate the current economic situation in our areas based on how we see it.
Maine is probably one of the more fortunate areas in all this. Maine does not really ever have "good times" economically speaking. Some years are better than others, but generally we seem to have become used to tightening our belt, making do with less, and generally living lower on the hog than we did last year. The cycles never seem to hit the extremes they do in other parts of the country. Our economic slow down began quite some time ago. Yes, it was accelerated by the jump in oil prices and then we were slapped hard while we were down with the banking madness, but it's like the weather here. Every shitty day we have ensures us that at some point a sunny one will visit us again.
As used to hard times as we are in this area in particular, some of us have taken notice that this time it is different. Pratt Whitney, one of our largest employers in the area laid off workers recently. Only it was not a lay off that affected the factory floor guys, it was a layoff in the mid management ranks. Employees with 35 years in were shown the door. Main Street in Sanford is looking like a ghost town with more empty storefronts than usual. My storefront will most likely be empty before the year is out also. Of the four car dealers in Sanford, only one remains. Sanford has the highest foreclosure rate in the state. The per capita income of around $17,500 has dropped and the percentage of people below the poverty line has climbed from it's somewhat steady level of around 13% to almost 18%. Both figures are well above the Statewide level of around 11% living below the poverty line.
Unless you live on the coast south of Ellsworth, the story is pretty much the same through the rest of the state. We thought we were used to hard times, but well I guess times can always get tougher no matter where you start off from.
Unemployment benefits have just been extended. Job openings anywhere are having way more people show up to interview than even have a hope of getting the job. I am seeing hitch hiking make a serious comeback. All my trades friends and ex co workers are scrambling to find work with low ball bids on renovation jobs. New housing starts have essentially disappeared. I tried to find some information on whether the times here have caused an increase in the numbers of people leaving, but according to Brookings, the previous migration model of the last few years has been turned on it's ear. Seems folks are not moving much at all. Where the Hell do they go that might be better than where they are?
That's my take here on the Right Coast. I am sure it does not differ much from the views elsewhere. This is not a series of isolated incidents affecting only certain regions or parts of our economic engine. This time everyone is involved. Poor, Rich, and the Shrinking Middle Class. I cannot believe that someone somewhere did not see this coming. It is just too broad and too inclusive to have snuck up unnoticed. And I think that is what angers me the most. The signs for me began around the time of the dot.com bubble bursting. That is when I realized our economy was based on no real tangible assets or base. Living off of demand can only last so long.
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