What Does it Look Like to You?

Sharon October 7th, 2009

It has been a while since I’ve had people post their updates of what they are seeing, but this article at Huffington Post encouraged me to ask how things are going in your neck of the woods?  Are things as much better as the news reports?  

I find myself fascinated by the insistence of the media that things are getting better – it is true that the stock market is up, and that the rate of job losses has declined slightly (although not nearly as much, we learn, as the reports suggest), but the idea that not losing quite so many jobs constitutes recovery is sort of fascinating.  The definition of “a good sign” or an indication of “recovery” keeps changing, and getting lower. 

Meanwhile, at the practical “affects how you actually live” level, things are getting worse.  Deflation seems to have taken full hold, state budget receipts are falling, leaving deficits that state constitutions don’t permit, and services for those most in need are falling.  The big question is how long the nation can borrow from the future to keep things going.

So what does this look like through your eyes?  Are things getting better?  Worse?  How about for your community?


67 Responses to “What Does it Look Like to You?”

  1. Brielon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:16 am

    Actually, I haven’t noticed any changes in my personal life. Unaffected so far. I can see it around me in the higher prices, tuition, more worried people at work. But no obvious consequences for me yet. We’ll see what I say in Jan when I’m moving and trying to get a new job.

  2. Poppycoleon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:18 am

    Longtime reader, first time commenter….etc..etc. :0)

    Here is Houston, TX the recession just recently hit us within I would say the past couple of months. We are still lucky compared to alot of the country–we have the gas and oil industry to hold up the town but people have been cutting back. I work for a small massage clinic as an assistant and we’ve lost a lot of clients. It’s hurting us as a small business and my hours have been cut which is of course hurting me. I’ve been looking for a new job but have been running into a brick wall!

    Cost of living is still good, gas is reasonable but the food prices have definitely risen. Also there’s been a spike in crime, deserted houses set on fire, break-in’s etc. Seeing a lot of animals dumped also. And I’ve seen more people begging on corners then I have in a long time. But like I mentioned we count our blessing we aren’t in a worse off part of the country…at least there are still jobs here…you just might not qualify for them.

  3. risa stephanie bearon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:28 am

    Spike in crime, dumped animals, food banks without food, state workers on furlough, city workers on reduced hours, companies gone bust, friends who say to friends “you mean you still have work?”, sale after sale in the stores but fewer customers, more-than-half-bankrupt newspapers saying “everything’s fine here; move along.” Lots of empty houses. Lots of competition among dumpster divers.

    Other than all that, things seem pretty normal, really.

  4. Dianeon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:31 am

    Here in the farmlands of Central CA, the recession combined with the water shortage combined with the fall of dairy prices has affected nearly everyone. Nearly one in five is out of work, we’ve seen major retailers close, and prices are dropping with demand. Lots of foreclosures, too. Two major dairy farmers committed suicide last summer because of the difficulties.

    Does it look like it’s over here? Nope. Not by a long shot, and we provide a huge portion of the nation’s food here, so the ripples will find their way beyond here in time. If you combine climate change (more droughts) with all the other problems…no doubt about it: the times, they are a changin’ (to quote Bob Dylan).

  5. Heatheron 07 Oct 2009 at 10:37 am

    Well, my neighbor is still out of work since January. He’s a structural engineer. Another neighbor has been out of substantial work for almost 2 years and is losing his home. A third home went into bankruptcy and burnt down the next day. That was in January and it is still sitting there a burnt mess.

    When I made my semi annual mall visit, my son commented that if anymore stores went out of business, they’d have to close the mall. Of course the mall is owned by a large group that is just coming out of bankruptcy.

    Our state (MA) is continuing to have revenue short falls and will have to make even further cuts to the already desperate cities and towns.

    On the bright side, I’ve been seeing more and more gardens around here. The farmer’s market just opened in my little town and surpassed everyone’s expectations.

  6. Danon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:39 am

    To be perfectly honest, I’ve got my radar set to ignore right now. I hit a critical point about a month ago where I simply couldn’t psychologically keep up with everything AND function in my day to day life. So, I haven’t been reading your writing as much and haven’t been spending as much time at TAE. I guess I’m buying in fully to the idea that you can’t expect a hallunicated idea to obey the laws of gravity. I have not idea when the “market” is going to crash. I have no idea when my turn to deal with the “depression” is going to come.

    All I know is that my family still has work, my friends still have work…though one friend of a friend got layed off yesterday…and my life continues to go on mostly as before. Prices are up at the food co-op and my wife and I have started going to Costco to save some on the stuff they carry that we’d normally get at the co-op.

    I see more people begging too and more shuttered restaurants and retailers every day.

    But all around, there are people still out going through their day to day lives, still eating out, still buying cars and houses, still shopping, etc. We have to remember that even though there is 20% real unemployment, that still leaves a large portion of the population with cash in their hands, willing to spend it on goods that are a “steal” with all the sales going on.

    And I’m trying hard to ignore it. I save money because that’s what I do and have always done, but I’m not on Defcon 5, no-fun-ever type rations…we still go out to eat at some local places that need the business and I still buy micro-brews and coffee. We bought a newish fuel efficient car good safety ratings because we think it’s important to protect ourselves while we’re still a part of the madness. And I ride my bike to work everyday (19 miles roundtrip with lots of hills), but that’s just because I like it. And we’re still thinking about starting a family…even though in the back of my mind, I know things will one day be going to hell in a handbasket.

    Life goes on.

  7. Melanieon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:57 am

    My husband is in sales in construction. He sells precast boxes that plumbing and electrical equipment go into underground. His sales has been staying strong, but he talks to all walks of people everyday, and hears their stories. Tons of foreclosures, businesses are bidding on anything, and everything, even giving numbers to the point where they won’t make any money, just so they can have work and keep their books going.
    Yesterday he had a customer come in wanting to buy an $180.00 item. Normally, his sales are in the thousands, so this was something like bolt. The customer had to try 4 different credit cards to pay for it. That is like you and me going into the drugstore and trying to come up with a nickel to pay for a piece of candy. It was upsetting for my husband to see this.
    We also live in the central valley of California. Last Spring we went for a drive to a small town in Sanger.
    We came upon a new subdivision with barely built and abandoned homes. These were large 2 story homes,almost done except drywall. Some doors were wide open. We walked right in them, with no one interferring. In fact, a police officer lived just down the street. It was like a ghost town, very scary.
    I have shoped at Winco, a large discount grocery store, for the past 17 years. They have the lowest prices. At this point, I have to shop there to stay within my food budget. I have noticed the past 2 years more uppity type of people shopping, middle aged, nicely dressed professionals, and especially more dads with their children in tow. It’s funny because it’s usually the nicely dressed middle class that will make a comment about the food prices.
    So, there’s a taste of our neck of the woods.

  8. Pat Meadowson 07 Oct 2009 at 10:58 am

    Doesn’t look good from here.

    The local paper runs foreclosure notices once per month: the foreclosures occupy more and more columns of print each month. You could say they are ‘mushrooming’ – that would be a fair description.

    Scary, and sad too.


  9. Caseyon 07 Oct 2009 at 11:01 am

    I moved back home to florida a couple months ago
    from phoenix, AZ. both places are being hit pretty hard by
    the housing market. we bought a tiny house on 1/2 acre last
    spring in florida last summer. We both brought our jobs home with us
    and are very lucky, very grateful, but are cautious. we know
    that either one of us can lose our job in an instant. Our
    phoenix house isnt selling because the foreclosures are
    killing the market and we are down so far its impossible to
    know what will happen. can’t rent, since the rent price
    they prop mgrs tell us is viable is barely a third of the
    mortgage, and doesnt touch the increased insurance costs,etc.
    its pretty scary. Its become a money pit just trying to keep
    it mantained–lawn guy,pool guy, etc. my entire paycheck
    goes to keeping the house and its expenses. trying to do
    the right thing, but not sure how much longer we can do
    this. we are hand to mouth. we moved home due to my health, my elderly inlaws
    and the fear that phx is not sustainable–couldnt grow a
    garden to really feed us. we downsized drastically hoping
    to be able to prepare for what may come. I grew up in
    south florida, so I know I can live simply here. I
    didnt have air-conditioning until I was almost 30 years old.
    I can do that again, and welcome smelling the world when
    I wake up. I’ve felt disconnected for a long time. My
    husband is not so keen, but he knows we need to make
    some major changes for numerous reasons.
    anyway, things don’t seem to be improving from my
    perspective. My neighbor was laid off on monday;
    my childhood friend has been unemployed since Feb; the
    local food pantries don’t have enough food; the bees keep
    dying–I’ve planted a large garden but I can’t find any healthy
    beneficials..mosquito spraying! I’d hoped to stock my pantry
    with home grown food and have enough to share, but i’m
    starting to grow nervous. I’ll have plenty of tomatoes.
    I’m in a line of work where I work with other businesses and
    am aware of their sales figures, etc. Small business are
    disappearing or contracting at alarming rates throughout
    the country. my community is still heavily dependent on
    snowbirds, but there are a lot of closed stores. If you drive
    through the neighborhoods, there are many empty homes,
    and a good deal were newly built and never occupied. YET,
    they are still bulldozing pristine forest for intended shopping
    centers and subdivisions. I don’t get it. I’m glad to see
    people working, but there are hundreds of empty shopping
    centers already. I can relate to another commenter-
    I, too, have to impose a media fast from now and then, just
    to keep my sanity.

  10. Lynneon 07 Oct 2009 at 11:03 am

    North of the border, our federal government has been basically saying this was a temporary glitch, that we’re already out of recession and Canada is doing just fine. At the provincial level, however, even our richest provinces are posting deficits, in BC we’re experiencing sweeping reorg and cuts in government services, including health care.

    I’ve never seen sales like this in my life. Things have been on permanent sale since last winter, except food and gas of course! You hear worries about inflation, but all I see before me is deflation. Definitely seeing more stores shuttered. In Vancouver where a couple of years ago real estate was the hottest thing going, now they have promotional deals like “buy this condo, get this car free”. There are half-built condo complexes where the cranes are literally just parked. What a tragic waste.

    Personally, though, things are still good. No one I know has lost their job, however several people I know lost a lot in their RRSPs (like a 401 k) last year. But I am very concerned that my husband’s work will eventually slow or stop, and we’re organizing ourselves so we can live on one half of my income alone, saving and “preparing” with any extra money that is coming in right now.

    I find the lack of connection between what the mainstream media says and what I see day-to-day very disorienting and depressing.

  11. Farmer Amberon 07 Oct 2009 at 11:06 am

    My brother was told his plant is closing at the beginning of next year, so he’s looking for a job (he’s a mechanical engineer). We’re making plans for what we’ll do if he needs to move in with us at some point. My company just announced the first layoffs in their 100 year history after having finished an early retirement buyout earlier this year that got about 40% more people than originally needed. I’m on a project now that ends after the first quarter of next year and I don’t know if I will have a job after that.

    We are already growing most of our own vegetables on our suburban lot, but we’re being more diligent about eating from our pantry. Eating out has always been a weakness for us, but we’re down to only a couple of times a month. We’re helping a local CSA with extra veggies and making plans for how we can increase that next year to give us a second income.

    I feel very fortunate that due to reading this blog for the last couple of years, we’ve made many preparations already. We have enough food to eat for a year (not our favorite diet, but enough) even if relatives have to move in with us. We know how to grow our own food so even if we have to move we will still survive. We’ve invested in the tools we’d need instead of stuff we don’t. Most of all, we’ve gone through the mental checklist of our various backup plans and made arrangements ahead of time in case we need to use them. That’s what lets me sleep at night even though there is so much uncertainty about when and how our lives are going to change.

  12. Sandywilloon 07 Oct 2009 at 11:08 am

    Because we have food stored, and we buy in bulk, I’m only in the regular grocery store about once a month, if that. So, everytime I’m there, I’m shocked at how much the prices have gone up, and the package sizes and selection have gone down. We’ve had lots of retail stores close, and stores that I used to avoid during their busy hours, (like Hobby Lobby) don’t HAVE busy hours any more.
    I have an online business selling rustic lampshades. I’ve been expecting for the past year to have my sales drop off to nothing, but it hasn’t happened, although my retail sales are down somewhat. I’ve had a lot of new wholesale customers, and I have the impression that people, who have lost their jobs, or otherwise need additional income, are starting their own businesses, making and selling lamps.
    So far, our family is doing ok. : )

  13. nikaon 07 Oct 2009 at 11:21 am

    I am going to be honest even tho its going to sound depressing or hyperbolous or fishing for sympathy. I share because I think its important for people to know its not just auto workers who are having a tough time. (I also apologize for length of this comment!)

    I am in MA. Am a scientist/writer (life sciences) DH is programmer/writer (supercomputing).

    I was laid off in Dec 2008, hyper-underemployed for years before that. DH laid off before that (Bush years were brutal on research grants). His unemployment (+extensions) has run out. Mine runs out (with current extensions) in a few months.

    Before being laid off, the recruiters were calling last year. I tried to get a new job (could see my industry at the time ripping itself to shreds) but none of those recruiters were able to deliver.

    Since December, endless CVs sent and an almost 1% total return in terms of simple notification of receipt, let alone any notification that they were not interested.

    Recruiters were in hibernation until a month or so ago then they started to email and call with jobs so grossly inappropriate that I have to force myself to write back and politely outline how their job description for a BS level tech is not likely to be a hit for me, someone with a PhD and three postdocs. Dont get me wrong, I want to make money but I know that my CV would not be considered – I am overqualified.

    The recruiters have been silent in the past few weeks other than the ones writing from India for more US lab tech jobs (with no BS, just associate degrees).

    Entreaties to colleagues in academia have yielded bupkiss.

    I trained in Cambridge, MA in Nov 2008 for the Transition Initiative… this was JUST before I was laid off. I must have been somewhat unbearable because I could not rouse any optimism – just intense concern. I knew on some unconscious level that my job was about to be axed. Transition without relocalization of JOBS is not transition, its an unattained ideal. I have been proceeding with our other relocalization activities since we decided to homestead out here back in 1995, years).

    I am used to retraining (dont even ask about the breadth of my background, tedious) but there is only so much one can retrain for and remain in the semi-rural environment (small town, land, low congestion) that one really needs to grow a self-sustaining homestead (for food relocalization – see link on my name above for blog on that).

    Months have gone by with little to no hope in this regard but recently I have been watching my DH make more and more freelance money working on a Java project, working from home.

    So, with my priority of NOT commuting anymore (tho I would take any such job right now) and finding a way to make money at home, I am teaching myself Java & C++, expanding my knowledge of PHP and am going to pair that with my scientific background and I hope to be able to do freelance remote work – this is my own personal objective to hack the jobs problem.

    Short term take home message: It sucks here and we are holding on by the skin of our nails.

    Medium term take home message: Its been a long time since I have had any hope at all for finding a new job.

    Long term take home message: I have seen a possible way to making money and once that starts happening – THEN I can resume hoping for our future, till then, its that sick feeling in the tummy.

  14. Robyn M.on 07 Oct 2009 at 11:23 am

    More than I care to talk about here. Our town wasn’t hit too bad I suppose, but given that it’s always been at the bottom of the heap, that’s not saying much.

    We’re both out of work. We had lots of warning, so we had a chance to save up money and start planning, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have no income, and jobs are very thin on the ground here. I’m living in near constant terror that one of my kids will have to go to the hospital and wipe out all of the money we’ve been using for things like, say, food. Or that the hospital will “work out an agreement with us” wherein we become indentured servants for the foreseeable future. We’ve applied for state insurance for the kids, but there is none for my husband or I, and gods knows we can’t afford it out of pocket. I guess right now we’re just living the standard American poor lifestyle–we ignore problems that should be dealt with in some desperate hope that they just go away, because we can’t afford to deal with them in a timely or responsible fashion.

    In our town, crime is up, especially robberies (e.g., our moped just got stolen), food banks are having trouble meeting needs. I’m not sure how the city finances are. We had a massive property tax cut recently, which 86′ed all of our library branches and hurt our schools something terrible. (How did people think that stuff was being paid for, anyway? Manna from heaven?) Just generally lots of people with a whole lot less money than they’re used to having.

  15. Safiraon 07 Oct 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Personally we’re not (knock wood) too badly affected yet. Higher food prices and less freelance work for me have made life tighter, but the garden and food storage have helped a lot. But around us? Definitely bad. A number of my friends are out of work or underemployed, and a few others are working two crummy jobs to make ends meet. Still losing clients at the payroll firm where I work (though a few clients are hiring again–yay!). We’ve had a few layoffs. My husband, a humane officer, gets pets surrendered all the time by folks who can’t afford to keep them, and calls from shelters in neighboring towns hoping he has room for their overflow. Which he doesn’t because our town’s watching every penny. I know this fairly affluent suburb is better off than many places, but at the same time, I think it’s a bigger shock for people who are used to living high on the hog than it is for people like me and my husband, who’ve traded that lifestyle for being able to do work we value.

  16. Annetteon 07 Oct 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Here in rural VA, many have lost jobs, my company had two lay offs; I survived both, however in exchange for keeping my job at the last downsize I had to take a 15% pay cut. Some benefits were gone as well. Several local businesses have shut down, food prices are up, gas is steady for the moment. In the next county, the sheriff’s dept. stopped the night shift for deputy’s (we do not have a police dept) and night crime has gone up.

    Not good.

  17. Janeton 07 Oct 2009 at 12:41 pm

    We’re near Washington DC and although we have only been here since the beginning of the year, it seems okay here. Their jobless rate is up but I still see houses being remodeled all around us, so seems to be plenty of construction work. We left Nevada for my husband to take the job here temporarily. We were suppoed to be here a year or maybe two and then we’d return to NV and get our state jobs back. Well that plan is out the window as the state now has a hiring freeze and furloughs. Our house back there is rented out, (we took what we could get) so although we are doing fine at the present moment, we have no idea where we will be after my husband’s contract is up.

    This reminds me to send some more money to my dad though. He is in Northern California, 71 years old and not making it on Social Security. He used to do odd jobs around his rural neighborhood, which has a lot of second homes of Silicon Valley type millionaires he is in – house painting, weeding, minor construction- but that work has all dried up. He is bored, depressed, and filing for bankruptcy, all of which is affecting his health.

  18. Shambaon 07 Oct 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I personally feel a little more schizophrenic every day (!) from watching everything some things good and some things not so good. Other than that, things in my end of the world are still going along pretty much as they have been. Two small strip malls near my neighborhood have been given big face lifts on their outsides. They certainly look better but all the businesses inside are open and have been there for years.

    The unit in my complex that has been for sale for a year (last nov. 1st) still hasn’t sold but all our other condos are fully occupied. One that is full of good renters had a trustee sale put on the door the other day. It’s owner is going to lose it, I guess.

    Restaurants I’ve seen still have some people in them. A new Paradise Cafe opened not far from me and a pizza place nearby. But a clothing store for tall women that’s been in business for at least 20 years is going out of business in another shopping mall about a mile away. That mall has been given a face lift but is almost completely empty. it’s gradually been going empty for 4 years.

    Most place I go I ask how their business is doing and most of the time they say it’s doing okay. I ask this at retail, restaurants and my dentists’ office.

    There actually has been new consturction of apartments and some office places not too far from me. They all broke ground a year ago or so and look like they are going to be finished soon. I don’t know why though, we are overbuilt in the Phoenix Metro area by 26% or something like that. We’ve got enough commercial space for like 4-5 years. some parts of town have actually seen house prices come up a bit during the summer.

    One grocery chain has declared bankruptcy and has slashed it’s prices enormously in some of the remaining stores. It’s an old Arizona family business established in the depression; I truly hope it stays in business.

    Out state government and budget are NOT good. Still no budget that should have been put in by July 1st. I know Arizona isn’t alone in this problem but it deepens anxiety among people I know who work for the state. Our governor has told state agencies to prepare for 15-20% budget cuts starting January 1st as things stand now. Some agencies are going to run out of funds before that if something isn’t done.
    and unemployment continues upward here as everywhere else in the US.

    so far, everyone I know who works is still working sometimes at some reduced hours or furloughs. Actually, more people I know, if they can and have a pension from an organization, are retiring.

    Sorry, if my typing or sentences are little off as I post too quickly,, I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing for days now.

    Peace to All,

  19. Barbaraon 07 Oct 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Our business is down 40% compared to 2004. We’ve tightened our belts as far as possible and are trying to hang on. We’ve seen a small increase in business lately since some competitors have gone out of business, but it certainly is just adding a little to the front end, while other accounts are falling off the back end. We’ve always been very careful with our money, so we can hang on for a while. But our health insurance payments are growing disproportionately large and we’re due for another increase in January. This worries me, at some point, we won’t be able to afford it.

    Every day I hear horror stories about people losing their jobs and/or homes. I hear all sorts of hardluck stories about why people can pay us. And I believe them. It used to be that people would cry poormouth and then pay for cable and dinners out, but not anymore. These people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. I have never seen more people living with family members in my life.

    I remember the recession of the 70s and this feels a lot worse to me.

    We sold our home in 2006 because we thought the high prices wouldn’t last. We’ve been renting since then, thinking that we’d wait for the bottom to buy another house, but we’re no where near the bottom. So, gratefully, we’ll continue renting. I feel bad for the guy who bought our home in 2006. It’s worth a whole lot less now.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that one of our local hospitals has been getting judgments against patients for sums as small as $250. This is something I’ve never seen before. So, now these people are going to have even more held against them. Credit is everything in our economy from getting a job to renting an apartment or buying car insurance. How are these people who can’t even pay $250. going to get back in? No, we’re headed for a horrible underclass in this country. What’s next, debtors prison?

  20. Anneon 07 Oct 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Personally, I am feeling like the previous commenter… not affected yet, but all around us we see evidence of trouble (Seattle area). I survived layoffs this summer. My husband’s engineering firm seems to have enough business for now.

    Lots of “professionals” being laid off and can’t find work. Unemployment payments running out. Our county government’s budget is a mess because of declining sales tax revenues, and there is a proposal to close 40 parks, plus lots of other cuts.

    At least three houses near us for sale but haven’t sold. Supposedly housing sales are up because of the tax credit, but not seeing that in my neighborhood (not one of the hip close-in Seattle neighborhoods).

    Donations and fundraising for kids’ public school are down by half.

    Two things I’m doing while I’m still employed (especially after reading a Nation of Farmers): spending more for quality local food, eating less meat, saving like crazy, and investing in garden expansion.

  21. Eleanoron 07 Oct 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Nika, sorry that you are in such bad shape. I understand, since DH and I are both PhDs w/ postdocs, etc., and I’m familiar wth both academa and industry. I know how depressing it can be. I think you are on the right track. We all need to get jobs using a variety of skills from different areas of life/technology, etc.

    As far as we go, DH became disabled over a year ago when we lived in southern CA. I was laid off almost a year ago. So, we moved in with DH’s sister in KS. Fortunately, we were able to short sell our house. I have a great job as a patent agent writing biotech patent applications, but don’t make nearly what I did in CA. DH is still disabled. But thanks to DSIL, we are doing ok and have a home. Plus, she has been the greatest help w/DH.

    I have noticed that every month there are more and more houses for sale. In many parts of town, there is at least one house for sale on every block. In some areas, more than that. Prices are going up. schools are cutting back on teachers. Thankfully, DSIL didn’t loose her job.

    I’m pretty scared and pretty much had to stop watching the news because it is so stressful I get overwhelmed. In the mean time, I have been learning to garden, building up storage, and working to change my family’s habits for the better.

  22. TheOrganicSisteron 07 Oct 2009 at 1:01 pm

    We’re in Las Vegas. Things are NOT getting better. And they are about to get a whole lot worse.

    New construction (a big chunk of our economy) has stopped. A few jobs are about to finish up and will then increase our unemployment rate again.

    Our unemployment rate is already higher than it was during the Depression.

    Another wave of foreclosures is about to hit.

    And unless Vegas goes back to it’s “Endless Growth” train wreck of an economy things won’t be looking up for awhile. This town only survives when the economy is good enough for people to blow money. Our construction, our casino industry, everything is reliant on that.

    Unless we start diversifying, bringing in other (sustainable) businesses, we’re screwed.

    I’m just glad we’re getting out soon.

  23. Kate-Bon 07 Oct 2009 at 1:03 pm

    The unemployment rate in Oregon has been pretty high the whole past decade, but the *official rate* for the state overall is now at 12.2% (almost twice what it was this time last year) and some counties are now pushing 19% (ten counties over 15%.

    Foreclosures are still occurring steadily even in my region, but at nowhere near the levels I witnessed before I got the heck out of California. That being said, I judge the number of homeless here by several criteria… how many reports of “illegal camping” in the police blotter of the local newspaper? how many teenagers looking for a couch to sleep on and a meal? how many at the encampment sites? how many cars look like they are being slept in and then moved in the morning?

    It’s going to be a long, cold and rainy winter, I fear!

    The most noticeable sight this past year was watching most of the locally owned businesses (especially restaurants and real estate agencies) go bellyup, then watching the enterprises that tried to take over the office space went under too. Now, watching new signs cropping up for more government agencies such as “tourist offices” and “visitor services” in the empty spaces. Too bad they didn’t open up more low/no-income health clinics, but such is life…

    I’m not too worried about Swine Flu but you know, untreated diabetes, high blood pressure and whatnot are darned near as epidemic and can kill a body just the same.

    As far as how it has affected myself, my family members, friends and cohorts — well, I’ll save those stories for my book. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t really fit into a couple quick paragraphs.


  24. nikaon 07 Oct 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Eleanor – thank you for sharing! It actually helps me (not misery loves company so much as a lessening of the isolation).

    I was a technical specialist at a biotech IP firm in Boston – call it my legal postdoc (in addition to my other three scientific ones) – was just about the most atrocious experience I have ever had. Sat for the bar and ALMOST passed :-/. Anyways, it wasnt the work but the people I worked with that were atrocious. I can only hope you are having a much better experience!

  25. Shiraon 07 Oct 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Things are sort of bumping along in the City of Subdued Excitement, otherwise known as Bellingham, Washington (even people from Seattle say “Where?”)

    The commercial vacancy rate is way up all over. My work takes me driving around, looking at buildings, and there is a sense of subsidence as the air leaks out of the bubble. The foreclosure rate is not that bad currently, although it’s possible that we have a lot of shadow inventory that the banks are hanging on to in hopes of selling it to some rich Canadian after the Olympics come to Vancouver.

    There are actually signs of activity in some parts of town. Several condo projects that stalled last year have resumed building and are coming on the market. They stalled because they were started late in the boom on property that was not already built on for a very good reason – the parcel was steep, or damp, or required chewing into bedrock or major environmental abatement. Hence the per unit price of the condos was stratospheric, the builder had to gold plate the interiors to justify the asking price, and there just aren’t that many rich Californians desiring to retire to the ass end of nowhere these days. Who knows whether they can be sold, now that they are getting finished.

    There is actually a little work out there for small contractors, remodeling and fixing gross blunders committed by builders in the rush to erect anything and sell it off during the bubble. Guys who had no work for the first six months of the year are having the phone ring.

    A local retailer is moving into a dead big-box store, which may bring some life into the whole eviscerated strip mall.

    Most of my friends who were laid off found something inside the six months initial unemployment benefits. Some are really struggling and on the last extension. The food bank is running out of food and the city has laid off workers and cut services.

    I haven’t had a real job in decades, so what happens to me during recessions is that I look for more work at a lower skill level and lower rate of pay. I find that it can be really hard to keep up with the gardening and other domestic economy activities that are even more needed during periods of lower cash flow, due to all the time spent working and looking for work. Over the summer, I spent as much time preserving the garden’s bounty as I could. Last winter, I was bailing out various laid off relatives and friends with first aid and care packages.

    The SBA offered me a loan, with very favorable interest rates, to cover existing business liabilities. In other words, they were offering me a low interest rate loan to pay back previous loans or extensions of credit from suppliers. The nice SBA lady thought I was nuts when I explained that I don’t have any business loans. Instead of expanding during the salad days, I stayed with nano-capitalism and equity finance. And an elderly compact car.

    Shira in Bellingham, WA

  26. Gina Mendoloon 07 Oct 2009 at 1:40 pm

    We are most certainly feeling the recession directly…

    My husband is one of those who is in the U6 unemployment number at “underemployed”. He has a PhD in environmental science and cannot find a full-time job. He is currently an adjunct professor at two different schools, teaching three classes, and making less per year than he made in grad school. He went to a “green jobs fair” sponsored by our city yesterday and found that only 2 of the 40 companies there were actually hiring – the rest were simply promoting their products.

    Thankfully, I am still employed with a good salary, however, I want to be the one home with the kids and he wants to be the one working so we are quite stressed. My company did recently announce that there will be no merit raises next year and that we will be paying an increased share of our health insurance premiums next year, but that seems almost fortunate compared to what others are going through.

    Although our neighborhood was named this week as one of the top 10 neighborhoods in America, we have seen a huge spike in crime – we had an attempted burglary on our home about 6 months ago and there has been a rash of car break-ins on adjoining streets the past two weeks. There are many more people panhandling on street corners. I see many yard sales – people looking for extra cash methinks.

    On the bright side, I now regularly get friends/family/people on the street asking me about cloth diapering, food preservation, gardening, etc now that folks have realized that such things aren’t just “green” but frugal.

  27. Lorion 07 Oct 2009 at 2:20 pm

    We’re doing OK, except there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of local job openings. I have noticed more homeless around (I’ve never seen them before, now it’s almost regular). Food prices went up.

    We had another farmer’s market open, and it has done rather well so far.

    I do the ‘media fast’ as well. It’s overload for me if I don’t have a heavy filter.

  28. Chris Newtonon 07 Oct 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I live in rural British Columbia, just outside of Kamloops.

    The local economy seems to be doing really well. I just spoke with a local home builder who was busy, and generally local business seems to be doing well.

    We own a log house business that has been inactive for the last year while we build our own house. What I hear from people that we do business with is that the export market is terrible (most log builders export to the states), but local sales are not bad.

    Our economy often seems to be affected slower than the urban centres. When things pick up or slow down, we seem to lag by 6 months to a year.

    I am suspicious that things will be much more challenging by the spring.


  29. Judyon 07 Oct 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Here in Baltimore, the downward spiral is apparent to me, but most still seem oblivious. Lots of infrastructure problems — broken water mains have become commonplace — a 72 inch main broke a few weeks ago and just about put a whole community underwater. Maryland seems to be faring better than many states, but our state workers are getting furlough days. The owner of the house next door just walked away 5 months ago, and the property is overgrown and spilling onto the sidewalk and street. Once upon a time, the city would have sent a crew to cut it all down. But most depressing was an article I read last week. Bodies of the indigent are piling up at the city morgue, because there are no funds for proper burial.

    On a personal level, we scrape by, but have been basically a one income family for 30 odd years and are quit comfortable with frugality. But our former confidence that we could ’scrape by’, has been replaced with a lot of anxiety about whether we’ll make it to the next paycheck after the bills are paid. Growing and storing food has made a difference, and the AIP class empowered me to make changes that I feel give us an edge.

  30. Jennieon 07 Oct 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Well, I’m a computer engineer and I’ve been unemployed for a few months now. My husband and I and our new baby boy live in my friend’s basement, in one room. We are living off my husband’s income, and his boss cut him back to 30 hours in July.

    My student loans quit giving me economic hardship deferrals last month and now the loans are going into default.

    I grew a ton of food this summer, and that definitely helped, but I only had a few community plots, so I don’t have enough stored to get us through winter. (We’re in zone 4 Iowa, so winter is a serious no-veggie growing spell.)

    I’d say things are still pretty bad.

  31. deweyon 07 Oct 2009 at 3:01 pm

    St. Louis here – in fact, we are seeing “green shoots,” though I am doomerish enough to presume it won’t last. Couple of substantial businesses opening up in our area, more weekend traffic, more people parking at the malls. (Haven’t personally been to a mall, dept. or big-box store in many moons, so can’t speak to prices.) Heard this morning Rush Limbaugh wants to buy our football team – yecch, please g-d, no!

    Personally, I’m getting a pay cut starting this month and have already been informed that next year’s health care plans will be crappier and cost more (how much not clear). We’ve had to accept aid for home repairs from parents. We’ve now cut out almost all luxuries and while I seldom miss them (except eating out!) the DH gets grouchy about it, so even though we have an exceptionally strong marriage, it is a real source of stress and bickering. Can only imagine how much conflict it must cause for other people with worse relationship issues.

  32. MEAon 07 Oct 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Strangely, the things that have struck me the most are 1) I’ve become used to the creap. I say, oh, yeah, three more houses for sale along the coomute route — yep, about what I’d expect, whereas even three months ago, it was, oh, dear, another house for sale, and the other 6 haven’t sold yet.

    I think I’m getting hardened, alas.

    2) that I can’t get donated yarn — just managed this years quota of charity knitting. Uusally by this point, we have about 1/2 of what we’ll need next year. We have nothing for adults, about about 1/3 the baby wool for the premmie hats we knit in January. Seems that people are either knitting up their stash or holding onto it in case they need it. Can’t fault them for that. Ought to be a hopeful sign in that we need more people prepping.

    Like so many posters, I feel trapped in unreality city. It’s obvious to me that we are not getting back to normal, yet people seem to constantly expect an upturn that will lead to full employment etc.

    I live in a rich part of Mercer County, NJ. Much of what is going on is out there, you have to look for it — if you don’t keep an out eye out you don’t notice the slept in cars making the rounds of safe parking lots, the people spending all day at the mall, eating leftovers, the less-full trash cans on pick up day… But in Trenton, it just out there: soup kitchen and other resources struggling to keep up, extension of unemployment about to run out, and no plans beyond a wing and a prayer for dealing with it.

    I did get the local town coucil to approve community gardning — actually, I didn’t go in their cape waving — I persuaded a councilwoman that it was a worthy cause, and she did all the work, and is now trying to get the local farmers market to be moved under cover into an empty store in a falling strip mall. Everyone likes the idea, except the owner seems to have fallen off the face of the world — even the company that collect the rent checks says they can’t locate him, except those checks keep getting cashed. Strange days.

    My own family is in termoil. One brother well aware of whats happening, trying to hang on in LV long enough to finish school; one with a failing small business, just waiting for Obama to get out office so that the rich won’t be taxed so much and will start spending again (needless to say, we don’t seem to be able to find any comong ground for communicating these days), and one oblivious to it all, trying to get people to invest in his wife’s plans to two businesses — one a day spa and the other renting office space and selling people on the building marked up bottled water, snack food, etc. who doesn’t graps why I think it’s such a bad idea.

    My parents, long time followes of the Club of Rome, keep asking me to plant more potatoes so I don’t feel completely alone.

    I so understand those other posters who feel as if we’ve fallen though the rabbit hole. Life is unravelling around us — why doesn’t everyone get it.

  33. janineon 07 Oct 2009 at 4:07 pm

    In Minnesota our former governor was instrumental in gathering a group of leaders together to begin the conversation about where our state is headed. The current Governor who is exploring a presidential bid, boycotted the effort. We face a $7Billion state deficit going into next year.

    What we have seen here are many foreclosures but much worse in some areas than others. In my own neighborhood houses are still selling for good prices. However I live in a high demand area where there was some pent up demand. We also live near a university and there are many “for rent” signs which indicate that students are commuting from home rather than paying for more expensive housing near campus.

    My husband and I are doing well. However, one son is underemployed and the other recently quit his job and has found the job market very difficult. He no longer has health insurance.

    We embraced frugality some time ago which has been of some benefit. We also try to buy local and notice that our farmers market is usually crowded. Our gardening efforts have netted mixed results. Unlike most of your readers, our tomato crop was great this year!

    Like many other commenters, it is hard for us to hear and deal with an ever expanding list of seemingly insoluable problems.

  34. Marianon 07 Oct 2009 at 4:09 pm

    None of my ostensibly paying clients have paid me yet this month, including one who claims the check is in the mail. This is not encouraging. Admittedly most of my clients have money problems of their own. I am tempted to give their names to my creditors and eliminate the middleperson.

  35. Debraon 07 Oct 2009 at 4:19 pm

    I too live in Houston. In July the staffing agency I worked for took a major hit in assignments as the large facilities began cutting their use of agency nurses in an effort to reduce cost. I went for 3 months with an average of 12 hours/week of work when, previously, I was being offered more hours than I could reasonably cover. I was fortunate to move into a new position at the end of September but I’m still playing catch-up with the utility companies so little pink notices come through the post day after day, my car is three months behind for inspection because I can’t afford to repair the transmission so it will pass and the mortgage company doesn’t want to hear me cry anymore. If it hadn’t been for our food stores, I’m not sure where my family would be right now. In the neighborhood down the road someone is setting fire after fire (11 at last count) and the neighbors are scared silly. There was a period of time when I considered selling the childhood home, where I live with my 3 children, and moving into an apartment. but then… who would buy it? There have been many nights when I have laid awake staring at the ceiling wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. I keep hearing that things are getting better. It doesn’t feel that way.

  36. Sarahon 07 Oct 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Things seem to be sort of coasting on neutral here. There are houses and businesses for sale, but not huge numbers yet. The library I work for seems to have laid off everyone it’s going to and has even approved our department to re-hire a supervisor (the budget line was always there, but now we know it’s not going away and can be occupied by a human being). The public library job market is still pathetic, but it’s not like it was all that great before things hit the fan. I suspect that the Boston Public Library needs a children’s librarian again because whoever had the position can’t afford to live in Boston on that salary now that prices have risen. (You have to be a resident of the city to work for the library; it’s annoying.)

  37. NMon 07 Oct 2009 at 4:49 pm

    We are fortunate enough to be doing well personally. But unemployment in the state is at 12 percent, and it’s nearly 13 percent in our county. State workers, including my husband, are having to take furlough days; my company had two months of furlough days in the summer, but our department is not taking them currently. A lot of businesses have closed, a lot of people are experiencing hard times.

  38. Taraon 07 Oct 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I live in a mostly rural county just south of Dallas-Fort Worth. I work for a catering company in Dallas (work mostly from home) and things have been extremely tight at my job. My company is still hanging in there, but barely, and only because we ran a really lean operation already. Other companies in our industry are closing, laying off, etc. My husband and I are doing fine (and in fact, maybe better than ever) but that’s due largely to lots of fat-trimming and very responsible living on our part. I’d say that the situation in our area is…mixed. A lot of folks are feeling pinched, no doubt, but it’s nothing like all the previous comments here. Not that bad here yet. My dad, an independent home builder, hasn’t sold a house in over two years and is still sitting on some finished but unsold homes. My mother, also self-employed, is not making ends meet on her own and is only staying afloat thanks to my stepdad’s job. Brother and sister are both woefully unemployed, and relying on others to help them get by. They have all been in this position for over a year now with no real improvement.

    The employment of our friends seems to be mostly holding steady, but everyone is finding ways to tighten the belt. Lots of retail space around here that was built but never filled. Some closures, but not a great many. Folks are still buying here – they’re just buying less, including the more well-to-do.

  39. ceceliaon 07 Oct 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I live in NW NJ extremely affluent area – 7 highest per capita income in the US – (not me though),

    I thought I would see a lot of back yard gardens this summer – but no. Things seem pretty much the same. All the usual summer festivities put on by towns still occurred this year when I thought they might be economizing. The one thing I notice is homes for rent – seems people who are downsizing don’t want to sell in this market so they are putting their homes up for rent.

    My town mostly has homes from the 1920 – 40’s. Smaller homes. The trend until recently was people paying up to a half million for these smaller homes and either knocking them down and putting up the mc mansion or remodeling the home to make it more contemporary and larger. Thankfully that trend has stopped. But homes are still selling although at lower and I think more realistic prices.

    NJ is a big pharma state and huge numbers have been let go from the pharma companies. But mostly what I see is anxiety about how long this will last or if it will get worse.

    For sure I see no sign of deflation – other than my retirement account. If anything prices go up not down.

  40. Mark Non 07 Oct 2009 at 6:07 pm

    “If anything prices go up not down.”

    Yep. If its food, energy, health care, or other essential, its up or will be going up soon.

  41. Jerryon 07 Oct 2009 at 6:16 pm

    The big Indian casino down the road five miles is ready to default on the 2.3 billion it owes its creditors. The large nuclear sub maker laid off 84 carpenters the other day and the small town I live in has only one new house under construction. My corn maze (PrestonFarmscornmaze) is right now doing about half the business it usually does but the weather and competition probably have a lot to do with that. The dairy business gets worse by the day and we are waiting for state and federal relief. A big farm in the area has borrowed a half a million to stay afloat and I’m thankful that it is not me in that pickle. I have probably dug a ten grand hole in equity but my cows are just starting to calve again and being an optimist is part of farming. I’m more thankful for the little things that I see everyday but I’m still very worried about the future.

  42. sealanderon 07 Oct 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I get the impression New Zealand has weathered the recession so far better than the US.
    The housing market slumped but the prices never dropped more than 20% and sales are starting to pick up again. Mortgagee sales are up but I don’t think they make up more than 5% of total sales. There is an oversupply of rental places, due to home sellers giving up and putting the house up for rent. I’ve been advertising for a new roomate for months without much success – we can’t seem to compete with all the places offering big sunny rooms with cable TV ;)

    Grocery prices seem to keep creeping up. The cost of meat has risen 20-30% this year, so we’ve cut way down on consumption. Cheese on the other hand has halved in price since hitting the dizzying heights of $17 a block at the supermarket. The Farmer’s Market always seems busy when I go there, and the local megamall is always packed with people. I noticed the local strip mall was pretty empty last time I went though.
    There are lots of really good sales on, but we often don’t have the spare cash to take advantage of this.

    Employment wise there still aren’t many jobs available. Unemployment is around 6%. Both DH’s company and mine have seen layoffs, but our jobs seem relatively secure for now. Since there’s no time limit on unemployment benefits here and a good public health system there are fewer people who fall through the holes in the safety net than in the US. One group that has been hard hit though are immigrants who came here on the skills shortage list, mostly working in the building industry. When that slumped, many lost their jobs, and are often being forced to return to their home countries at great expense.

    There are some big construction projects coming up for this region which will create a lot of jobs. The government has been making cuts in a lot of areas – home help for the elderly is the latest target. They’ve also been conducting mineral audits of all National Parks while insisting they have no intention of allowing mining, they just want to know what is there……

  43. homebrewlibrarianon 07 Oct 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Here in the Anchorage, AK area the municipal budget is projected to be more than what can be brought in through taxes. Already municipal employees have had to take mandatory furlough days and there have been increasing tensions between the municipality and the unions. This is making everyone rather testy.

    BP and Conoco Phillips (Big Oil) have been going through lay-offs – first with their contractors and now with their employees. I have one friend who has seen lay-offs in his division at Conoco Phillips but has dodged them so far. A friend’s husband who is a manager for BP is developing extreme stress from having to not only be the bearer of bad news to his employees but also has to figure out how to get the work done with less people. My friend was telling me that BP was laying people off during their off time (lots of oil workers have two week on/two week off schedules), basically telling them not to return and that their personal belongings would be shipped to them. All this with no warning. Her husband’s response to all the stress was to want to go on more vacations – Vegas, Disneyland, Hawaii! He might have the money now but I suspect his number will get drawn at some point.

    My job hours were reduced by 20% mostly due to the fact that the job didn’t require that many hours. Since I was making more money than I really needed, I was fine with dropping back to four days a week. I still have something like adequate health care, too. The position is a grant position using federal money so as long as the State government gets grant funds, the position will continue to exist. I’ve been getting used to living using less and working to expand the gardens and store up more food. I’m lucky in that I live in a building where the six of us are about as close to family as a group of bloodkin and unrelated people can be. We are doing a lot to improve the building and put in more gardens. We also are spending more time with each other and do what we can to support each other.

    The owner of the building is retired and his retirement income (federal govt and some military) is adequate. The mortgage was paid off last December but he’s struggling to get his other debts paid down. The young couple and their roommate upstairs have okay employment. She’s a stay at home mom (with a $16,000 student loan that they may very well default on) and her husband works for his dad in the home renovation trade. Business for them is good because the State of Alaska has been funding an Energy efficiency program that many people are taking advantage of. He’s paid in cash but because he’s half Native American, he gets free health care at the Alaska Native Hospital. The roommate was just promoted to being the manager of a liquor store and while the promise of a higher paycheck is welcome, he hasn’t been in the position long enough to see it just yet (on the other hand, he’s into the thick of all the fun stuff managers get to deal with). He gets the barest of health insurance. The stay at home mom has no health insurance although their son can be treated free at the Alaska Native Hospital. I’ve been able to help out the roommate and the stay at home mom with medical costs since I’m the most gainfully employed but I bring home less than before so I’m not as able to help as much.

    As for around town, I don’t get out and about all that much but here on my block the fourplex that was started two years ago is still just foundations and the duplex to the north of us is still for sale even with price reductions. A fourplex around the corner has been for sale for almost two years with no takers. I’m seeing more for-sale signs in the neighborhood but since I haven’t been paying attention I don’t know if places are selling pretty quickly and new ones are coming up for sale or if the market is flat.

    Some people seem to be getting it while others are not. My neighborhood is full of people living from paycheck to paycheck and some not even that. Belt tightening is normal here and there’s been no increase in crime.

    I feel like we’re holding our breath.

    Kerri in AK

  44. Gracieon 07 Oct 2009 at 7:35 pm

    We are…uneasy but really blessed when it comes down to it. Although neither of us are working, we got good severance and have money put away. We have been managing our pantry, and have a good 9-12 month supply of food put away and can support family as we need to. We saw this coming to some extent, so we paid off the house and car. Our living expenses are quite low.

    Having said that, our kids can’t find work and are living here. I’ve been giving my parents money because they are having trouble making ends meet (they won’t discuss moving in – yet). There have been several foreclosures on our block. Our neighbor has been underemployed for several months, and recently threw in the towel and put the house on the market. Every strip mall and commercial development in the area has vacancy signs on them.

    Glad things are getting better – I’d hate to think this is getting worse. :)

  45. Beckyon 07 Oct 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Through my eyes, things just look different.

    For instance, I look at my retirement savings or what is left after I cashed in my IRA a while back. Today, the term retirement savings seems out of place. I feel it more appropriate to spend the money now to help increase “production” of the land. After all, the money might become worthless, whereas the large pond I had excavated could prove very useful as far as a water source for irrigation is concerned.

    Kind of similar with savings labeled to eventually replace my old pick-up. I reduced my miles driven so drastically, there is no way I could even justify buying a new or used vehicle. I am looking for a good 4-wheel hand pull cart though. Would not have thought of using one a few years back.

    And I used to see an occasional passerby come over and snag an apple or two. Really no big deal. Kind of got worried after noticing one plum tree picked clean within arm’s reach. And you know people are hungry, when you put out a large basket of zucchini for grabs, and all are gone next morning.

    My job title seems to be a planting fool.

  46. Tammy and Parkeron 07 Oct 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Let’s see……

    Thiokol just laid off 500 people. 1,500 more by Christmas.

    Our new Governor just made it very clear that our 280 million deficit since the budget passed in July would come mainly out of Medicaid and education.

    Cause teacher’s are so over paid to begin with, don’tcha know.

    Several in my neighborhood have lost jobs. We have a drop off for any extra garden or orchard produce for people who have extra to leave it and those who need it to grab it. It’s gone in a flash.

    But at the same time places like Chili’s and the like are always mobbed. Go figure.

    Then again Utah is known as a high bankruptcy state. And credit card ran up to the max state.

  47. donon 07 Oct 2009 at 8:49 pm

    No green shoots in NW Montana. Our economy consisted primarily of homebuilding, and its various derivatives. That’s all in the toilet. All the major employers (aluminum, timber) have either had massive layoffs, or shuttered entirely. No signs of anything improving materially.
    Personally, I’ve spent the last year transitioning from metallurgical research engineer to domestic engineer. On the bright side, my wife is still well employed, so even though our income has dropped dramatically, we have also been able to cut expenses significantly due to the fact that I am now able to spend all my time gardening, cooking, doing maintenance, etc.
    Life is actually great, but I have no doubt that we have yet to see the bottom of this. Enjoying it one day at a time.

  48. Tammy and Parkeron 07 Oct 2009 at 9:12 pm

    And from the ‘curious’ file……

    No killer deals anywhere. At the mall….nada. Prices have held steady. Well, except in groceries where they have risen.

  49. Jenon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Survivor’s guilt here. I’m in one of the hardest hit states, SC, but b/c my dh works in an online environment, we are kinda of in a bubble. Our area is semi-hit, the upstate, but the people that I know who are unemployed have had issues for the past few years so I don’t know if it is the recession or not. We are increasing our gardens, planting more trees, and getting chickens in the spring.

  50. Rayaon 07 Oct 2009 at 10:57 pm

    I closed my business last fall, after having baby 5 and realizing I couldn’t do everything. And we have lived since then on selling off it’s assets. But in August the asset sales died completely….. zip income in September- we even starting searching for and applying for jobs. My husband did freelace graphic design, but he finally found a job at 1/3rd of his normal hourly rate- yet it was the best job around.

    In September we spent a total of $7.50 on groceries, and yet felt that we ate better then we ever had before. That is thanks to our amazing tomato harvest and food storage.

    We paid off half our house when we got an inheritance, and because our budget is so tight we are refinancing it to get the lowest possible mortgage- and I will still have to do some research and writing work to make ends meet, but at least it’s something. I actually got a notice of going to cut off power because I couldn’t make last month’s payment and the advance on my paycheck didn’t come in time to make the electric bill on time- but finally got it out today (along with a few other bills that needed to be paid) so we literally have $9 until my husband gets his first paycheck…. and yet this is an improvement :)

  51. Lori Scotton 07 Oct 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Here in Queensland Australia things are going on just as normal. There were some layoffs at the beginning about 12 months ago but they are gone and forgotten and things are forging ahead. I just heard that this months unemployment rate was less than last months. Of course, we don’t pay for health care and unemployment benefits are unlimited.

    Seeing documentaries and current affairs programs, it seems that the underclass are hurting. But then they always hurt and things never seem to get much better for them. Anyone who has a home and a little financial stability is going OK. Even long term unemployed people become quite skilled at living frugally on their benefits and the lower interest rates have meant a few less increases in their rental amounts.

    Anything concerned with the government is going up. Council rates, registration of motor vehicles, electricity supply, water charges, fuel taxes, alcohol and tobacco taxes etc etc. Food is not dirt cheap but its OK. Good meat is quite expensive but cheap meat is still quite affordable.

    The biggest problem this state has is youth unemployment which is ongoing and concerning. Good full time employment for young people is very scarce and they need this to be able to establish themselves in the housing market.

  52. mnfnon 08 Oct 2009 at 2:51 am

    Like Lori in Queensland, things at the other end of Australia are looking suprisingly normal. I’m in Tasmania, and while there are still some companies closing and layoffs being made, the unemployment rate seems to have stabilised.

    On the other hand, the unemployment rate wasn’t that brilliant to begin with, and there seems to be significant numbers of people juggling study and underemployment to get by (I work in education).

    One good thing is that there seems to be a stronger tradition of home vegetable gardens and local business here, but I have noticed there are a few people on our street (including us) making effort to expand and improve home production. One neighbour had wood stolen this winter, and costs for any heating form are going up – but at least we are moving into spring now.

    I’m not sure if the ‘back to normal’ is media illusion, national situation or personal delusion.

  53. Marilynon 08 Oct 2009 at 7:15 am

    The stock market is not a reflection of the health of the economy regardless of what the major media outlets tell us.

    The balance sheets of the banks certainly don’t tell a true story either. The mortgage-backed securities that are on their books have not been valued correctly thanks to the “mark to market” accounting changes that the financial institutions and politicians forced. There are more defaults coming i.e. commercial loans, “alt A” and “prime” mortgages. The bankers know this and are holding the money where they will be properly leveraged later. Money is just not flowing. Small businesses that are struggling can’t go to the bank and get a loan. It appears that the only significant movement of money in this country is between the government and the financial institutions. Personally, I’m hoping to see legislation to regulate the banking industry and the ratings agencies. We need laws that protect us from “too big to fail” and that penalize the ratings agencies for failing to do their job. (Still can’t believe they slapped triple A ratings on those crappy mortgages that they didn’t even review.)

    While credit is frozen, more businesses are failing. That means fewer jobs. No jobs means no recovery despite what the mainstream media tells us. If you lose your job or you are worried about losing your job, you buy only the essentials. At least that’s what we’re doing.

    In our town in southeast TN, several small businesses have closed. Some had been in business for forty years. Several manufacturing businesses have had layoffs. We see lots of empty storefronts in the strip malls, fewer cars at the local restaurants, more people begging for money. People look worried. I’ve seen more women in the grocery store with calculators and coupons. The cars outside our local grocery outlet are much nicer than the cars that I used to see there.

    On a personal note, my husband’s employer has had two layoffs. He managed to survive both cuts. The ones who remained were told there would be no raises for the next couple of years. We were so happy that he had a job and we had insurance, we didn’t mind. In order to cut costs, the plant has been shutting down on Fridays periodically when the orders are light. He’s been told if there is another cut, it will affect his department. We are hopeful but still try to prepare as best we can. We preserved quite a bit from our garden this year. We try not to buy anything that isn’t necessary. I retired early three years ago so we are accustomed to living frugally.

    All of our lives have changed whether we realize it or not. Most people do not realize it yet.

  54. MDon 08 Oct 2009 at 7:31 am

    Memphis has been in decline for some time, and getting mugged is considered “Memphis tax”, so other than my DH being unemployed since last September, and more “for rent” signs than usual out in our neighborhood, things look normal. I live close to work, but cannot walk or bike because it is unsafe. We have my grad student income, so we’re OK, but uber-frugality is the norm for us.
    I guess my alarm happened in the spring at a banquet at a scientific conference. The topic of the humor-based key-note address was the effects of economic stress, but the scientists (many of whom study the deleterious effects of excessive alcohol consumption) were slamming back the wine and raising their glasses for more like a man on a drunken binge slamming back hard liquor. For a student, it was scary to realize that most of our grants were (and are) being paid by a government running extreme deficits, and some of the private foundations were going bankrupt. It felt like the stimulus money was a 2-year reprieve on a death sentence (these people have to keep grants to keep their jobs, so the pressure is intense when the cutoffs fall to 1 or 2% getting funded), and we were all standing on a very high cliff, not knowing who’ll get pushed off when the 2 years ends. That mood is now muted, but still there, like a muted large-screen TV showing tragic pictures at a dinner party. Scary.

  55. DaveMon 08 Oct 2009 at 8:23 am

    Jacksonville, FL
    The newly expanded port facilities are operating at 20% capacity but river channel dredging continues with Fed dollars. The suspended silt from the dredging coupled with an odd rainfall pattern (10 inches at a time) has meant fewer fish in our summer diet. Fridays are now as popular a fishing day as Sat used to be so more people must be off work. The rainfall also increased insect problems for our gardens. The local feed/seed stores sold out early due to increased demand for vegetable seeds but the national chain stores (Home Depot etc.) are still offering mostly ornamentals and flowers.

    Apartment rents are down and new commercial construction is at a standstill except for government projects (courthouses, military base renovations) and the incessant road building. Infrastructure may actually have a chance to catch up with the now stalled population and housing growth of the past 10 years unless the money runs out. Even hospitals are postponing expansion due to financing problems and uncertainty over pending regulation. Property tax assessments are down but tax rates have increased to maintain local govt budgets. I know of several families living in homes they have stopped paying on and if you look, you will see abandoned houses without For Sale signs in every neighborhood.
    Hours at our shop have been cut along with 40% of our former workforce but even with that reduction we are still below our newly diminished capacity. We are finally starting to see some smaller competitors fold. Traditionally that would have meant more work and profits but we are still seeing the market contract.
    A couple of weeks ago I saw something that said it all about the times here: matching His & Her(2) jet-skis and ATVs for sale in a front yard. Can you imagine the look that would have put on Jim Kunstler’s face?


  56. Donon 08 Oct 2009 at 8:26 am

    Here in central Ohio, things don’t look either promising or terrible, at least not yet. State government, a big industry here in the state capital, has been cut drastically because of falling tax revenue. Ohio was second only to Michigan as far as dependence on the auto industry is concerned; articulating the notion that this industry is actually dying and won’t be with us in a decade or so is usually met with blank stares and denial. At any rate, our governor tried to make up for lost revenue by authorizing gambling operations (specifically, the installing of slot machines at race tracks), but that effort has been at least temporarily stymied by the courts. Meanwhile, another gambling proposal (to build casinos in each of Ohio’s four largest cities) is on next month’s general election ballet (along with a proposal that you would be interested in: a farm industry-supported plan to authorize a state board that would regulate the treatment of farm animals, ostensibly to make sure they’re treated humanely, but in reality, and more cynically, to forestall any effort on the part of animal welfare organizations to effect real reform in that area).

    Just what we need to balance our state government’s budget: encouraging a parasitic “industry” like gambling. But the tax revenue collections continue to come up short. More cuts are in the works, I’m sure.

    My wife, a librarian for the state historical society, has survived several rounds of layoffs. Now she has more responsibilities than ever with no increase in pay and unsure prospects about here own job’s survival. I’ve been somewhat underemployed as an adjunct college instructor for about seven years; the prospects for full-time, semi-permanent employment around here seem remote.

    The most visible sign in these parts of the current economic times is the growth of abandoned commercial properties; empty stores in strip malls, empty big box retail centers standing in the midst of empty acres of concrete, half-filled office parks, and the like. Some of this has been caused by longstanding sprawl, as retailers abandon more central locations for “nicer” digs in newly developed areas, but the trend of boarding up these venues has accelerated during the last year or two.

  57. Stephen Bon 08 Oct 2009 at 8:50 am

    Here in the suburbs of Boston things have been dampened some, but it’s still doesn’t look like a dire situation. Most people I know still have jobs and the roads are still jam packed with vehicles. The few times we’ve been in restaurants, they still look pretty busy, although we haven’t had to wait much.

    Driving around (when I’m not on my bike), I do see a good deal of houses for sale, but most don’t seem to sit for more than a month or two, and builders have still been at work, especially on the large apartment complexes near the highways. (Gosh I simply cannot imagine living in those bird cages with nothing outside except a parking lot by a highway interchange.)

    State government is facing large deficits that have to be trimmed due to state constitutional requirements, and my town is cutting back a bit, but in general government here is still going like gangbusters. A few months ago, our town voters approved a new multi-million town library while at the state level, stimulus money spending is quite evident in all the highway construction projects going on at night. (Again, traffic is way heavy during the day.)

    At the residential treatment center I work at, we went without merit raises this past year, but we still have plenty of clients and business. The state hasn’t raised what it allows DCF to pay us for child care and we have canceled all our overtime, though due to the amount of work still to be done, that’s left some shifts short-staffed. We’re still hiring everything from program managers, to nurses, to direct care staff. Other programs run by our agency, programs doing after care and other things not mandated by law, on the other hand, have been cut or even eliminated.

    At my place, I have a larger home garden than ever and have really gotten into saving the excess. While I hear lots of talk of others doing gardens, I only know of one other garden on the street and that one’s been there for several years already. I have been keeping a large garden at work, along with developing an orchard and small fruit plantings, and there has been some talk amongst the other staff of the importance of what we produce. On the other hand, there has been very little interest in any of them about actually helping out in the agricultural activities or helping incorporate what we produce into the kids’ menus and lives, but that’s probably because most of my coworkers have so little knowledge of how to go about farming and gardening and cooking with real food to begin with. I try to help them out and show them things, invite them out to the garden and what not, but it’s been slow going. (They’re mostly 20-something urban-bred folk.) On the other hand, several coworkers have been taking more produce home with them “to share with my grandmother” etc. than I recall them doing last year.

    We take the student/clients to the malls (all too often imo), so I too visit the larger enclosed malls around here. Just last night I noticed several vacancies in one of the area’s premier malls that weren’t there last month. If the stores are going out in the fall, what vacancies will develop after the holiday shopping season I can only hazard a guess.

    In short, I see a recession, mainly in the malls, but as for people around me losing jobs and preparing, I don’t really see it much yet. Still, I’m glad I have a full wood pile and lots of food in storage.

  58. Fernon 08 Oct 2009 at 9:34 am

    Things are better for us … if you don’t count that we haven’t even paid LAST month’s rent yet. Uh ….

    The client load for our home business is up, but that won’t start to bring in cash for a couple more weeks. But one big client has had a change of management which resulted in a turnaround for their company and thus cash to spend on us working on new products and logo for them. Another has gotten matching funds for our project with them from the govt. We alsohave one or two new clients starting up. And sales of our original B2B USB HID programming tool are up.

    OTOH, we had to turn over one client account to a collection agency which is a first for us. But I had to emotionally disinvest in that rather than take the verbal abuse from the guy.

    I have hope of catching up on my bills starting in three weeks. Did catch up on health insurance!

    Frondly, Fern

  59. Elaine B.on 08 Oct 2009 at 10:29 am

    I think that things are bad but the suburban area that I live in (northern NJ near NYC) hasn’t been too badly hit. There are some foreclosures, some businesses closing and some empty stores. But plenty of people are eating out (the diners and many restaurants are often packed), people are shopping at the malls and I see a fair number of homes being redone (it’s a much older suburb).

    I think what has kept this area going is an easy train commute to NYC and a lot of people in the financial field.

    Housing prices have fallen about 15% but they were stratospheric before they fell and there are still homes that sell in two or three weeks.

    For me things are not so great. No one wants writers anymore. There are tons of writers/journalists who can’t find work. I know people who have lost their jobs and know that they will never replace them and will have to go into something completely different. I think we’re headed for a lot more tough times.

    I live in an apartment so can’t grow my own food. I try not to spend much on anything. Haven’t bought clothes in a couple of years and have been selling some stuff on ebay to make ends meet.

  60. Mos Stefon 08 Oct 2009 at 11:34 am

    I was surprised at how relieved and touched I was that someone would think to ask someone like me what I’ve been observing. This flood of sad and anxious posts has been very moving and galvanizing. I also apologize in advance for the length of this post; I suppose I’ve had a lot on my mind, and I appreciate the opportunity to unburden myself a bit.

    In Portland, the view is troubling. My partner lost his job of ten years. Without the federal COBRA subsidy, we would have no health care. I had worked for years in customer service jobs and in desperation tried to return to jobs that could only keep us afloat if I worked two jobs and for which I was overqualified to begin with. I begged; it was pretty humiliating. No jobs. Our living expenses are kept to a minimum. My partner knows it’s important to be preparing for a post-oil world, but he’s so depressed after the layoff that he can barely get up in the morning. I am so worried about him.

    All of my friends are nice normal young people in their early 30s; most have us have been underemployed since we graduated from college around 2000. Now it’s the exception rather than the norm if one of us has a job at all. We joke sometimes about everyone moving in with the couple that has *two* incomes. Ha…

    I reluctantly returned to school for a “marketable” skill, and ended up interning for the State of Oregon just in time for a front-row seat to its budget implosion. I was ridiculously fortunate to secure a temporary job for the labor department. From that vantage, I have seen many employers taking shocking advantage of their employees, and enforcement agencies are too weakened to protect workers. Schools have also been eviscerated; unemployed teachers have swamped the job market.

    All of my family works for the state of California, and they have all taken pay cuts in the form of furloughs. My mother is supporting her family on 24 hours of work per week; her husband is in construction and hasn’t worked in a year, and his adult children keep moving in with them. My old graduate school friends who still teach in California colleges have seen their class loads increase by 25% while their pay has been cut by 20%. One institution fired 21 of its 25 English lecturers.

    I’ve never been someone who worries about whether crime will impact me. But our neighborhood, which had been rapidly gentrifying, has gotten increasingly hostile. We hear gunshots a couple of times a week. My partner had to duck behind a car in the middle of gunfire a couple of months ago. I feel like the city has decided to cut out of our community.

    It makes me kind of ill when the mainstream news sources trumpet things like “Job losses less than expected for July!” or whatever Pollyanna nonsense they’re spewing that day. I don’t mean to be overdramatic, but I feel our economy is a couple of good energy price shocks away from total collapse (crazy, right? that would never happen).

  61. Bill--TNon 08 Oct 2009 at 11:57 am

    This has certainly been informative and entertaining—reading about the experiences and circumstances of others as we tumble off the edge of the abyss. I wish more writers would identify their homeplace.

    For myself, I retired from many years of nursing in 2005. I’ve tried to live a “low overhead” life for many years, so I’m fine as things go now. My small town in East Tennessee has been in decline for decades, since the mills moved out, and is looking shabbier by the month. Downtown is a disaster, and the small hospital I work in occassionally is moving soon to a new location (thanks to a corporate buyout), yet the city is pinning its hopes on a renovation of the old movie theater to spark an urban revival. What a joke!

    I don’t know where or how my neighbors work. There isn’t anything around here but fast food and WalMart and pawn shops.

    More depressing is the realization that things probably will get a whole lot worse and nobody seems to have a clue. I turned my TV off a year ago because the MSM had no clue and wasn’t telling, even if they did.

    My income is static and, thankfully, is sufficient for today. Instead of saving, I’m putting what few bucks I get in food storage and bullets.

  62. Bill--TNon 08 Oct 2009 at 11:58 am

    As an afterthought, I wish someone would initiate a blog dedicated to the question of how things are going where you live.

  63. Taraon 08 Oct 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Bill – done.

    Started here: http://viewfrommytown.blogspot.com/

    I’ll put up instructions for anyone who would like to submit updates.


  64. Tonion 08 Oct 2009 at 12:45 pm

    I’m in Baton Rouge, LA.

    My employer– a small staffing company– is barely making ends meet, because when companies are afraid to hire, they don’t need our services. The office scuttlebutt (from folks who have been here- in the city, and at this company- a lot longer than I have) is that we’re hanging on by our fingernails and something’s got to give by Q1 2010. I don’t know how long we can stay open otherwise, because our owner will not run us at a deficit, or drain her own savings. I try not to worry about my job security because I can’t function well when I’m all wrapped up in anxiety; there’s time enough to worry when the axe finally falls, I guess. In the meantime, I go to work every day and do the best I can with what I’ve got.

    My husband’s employer is a multinational company heavily tied to the oil/gas industry. The fear of upcoming legislation has put a severe damper on things and there are not enough projects to keep everyone busy. Layoffs started there last year, Christmas week! He has specialized skills so he managed to hang on for a long time, but still worked only 3 days a week during August and September, and he’s currently on an unpaid furlough for at least another month– we’re basically treating it as a layoff, because we have little hope that he will be called back to work unless something dramatic happens. There are next to zero local job opportunities in his field, and few others in any field that pay a living wage for a family. If we can figure a way to pay for it, he might go back to school next year to learn something different. Right now he’s considering working as an overnight stocker for a big box store (ugh) for $10/hr, simply because it’s more than unemployment insurance is paying. Speaking of insurance, while on “furlough” we can’t afford to keep paying for the (fantastic) employer-provided health insurance, so we’re megadosing on vitamins and avoiding illness/sick people like… well… the plague. Husband was having headaches so I made him get an eye exam and new glasses (new prescription put into his old frames) two days before the insurance ended.

    We had hoped to buy a house this year– pushing for some independence from apartment life, and space for a real garden!– but that’s on hold indefinitely. We had been talking about having a baby or adopting in the next year or two– I don’t see how it can happen now. So far, amazingly enough, we have not had to dip into our emergency fund (a few thousand dollars), but we’re being forced to slow down our debt-reduction snowball (and I am so grateful that we already have eliminated $800/month of debt payments, and are that much better off!). We are currently in the throes of choosing a cheaper apartment, because we just can’t stay where we are now for very much longer. I’m being very, very careful about our expenditures; we have bought very little other than groceries over the past few months, and I can’t remember the last time we ate out. I’ve quit shopping at the big store nearby and instead watch the weekly sale ads like a hawk for a grocery store a bit further away– but I can keep the food under $50/wk that way. I’ve always had a full pantry and some extra food reserves, so we’re still eating well, but I’m making a lot more use of sales and coupons than I used to (and I was a tightwad *before* all this!). Donations are way down and demand is up at the local food bank; I try to give even a little bit whenever I can. Thankfully I have been able to cut our spending enough that I have not had to reduce any of our charitable contributions.

    We live at some distance (350 miles) from most of our friends and family, and I have no idea if/how we will be able to make any holiday visits this year. I’m willing to clip all the coupons in the world to make ends meet, but when finances cut into my relationships… well, I feel that loss much more acutely than any of the other “deprivations”. Praise the Lord that our 13-year-old has been a trooper– even offering to give up her monthly allowance! (I told her I wanted her to keep getting it, but that she would be required to use it pay for more things for herself that normally Daddy or I would have covered for her. Candy bars aren’t in my grocery budget anymore. ;-) )

    Now that I type it all out, my circumstances feel dark and heavy– but we’re making do, really, we are. Because we’re in a capital city that is also a huge college town, I think we’re insulated from a lot of the difficult things that people are experiencing. When I get discouraged I remind myself that at least we’re not in Detroit, where things are truly awful. (Sorry, Michiganders.)

  65. Royon 08 Oct 2009 at 1:06 pm

    The capital city of Washington is funded by state government and nearby military bases so Olympia has only had a mild downturn sofar. Our rural home remodel project was completed last month so we were able to relocate my MIL from the independent living home in Phoenix this month. Our household income is steady due to pensions and SS but I have worries about a fixed income in face of anticipated rising prices due to inflation over the next several years. And of course, one can never quite get a handle on how the coporate pensions funds are doing in the current investment environment, So there is a concern about the (broke) federal govenment taking over potentially failed pensions and paying 10 cents on the dollar.
    Next year we will have a vegetable garden! This year, our garden consisted of one cherry tomato plant that yielded a total of three (3!) cherry tomatoes – not quite a good investment since we bought the plant for a few dollars. And our single old apple tree produced 3 apples. We are not quite self sustaining in our food production.

  66. Ginaon 08 Oct 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I could talk about a lot of subtopics under this one heading, but I am going to concentrate on the animal dumping a lot of folks here have mentioned. I am seeing this in droves here and I know the animal shelters are operating above budget (my county shelter is now a “city only” shelter because they spent what the county gave them, but the county just keeps bringing in animals). I live rurally and the number of feral dogs has become amazing. I lost my entire flock of chickens and 5 rabbits this year to strays. I also now have 8 cats hanging around the farm and I can only account on the origins of 5 of them (a pregnant mama dropped off earlier this year and her four kittens); the other three just showed up and joined the “herd”. I need to get them in for spaying/neutering soon as they are growing fast.

    Last month, while away on a work assignment in LA, my 5 year old, gentle ram disappeared. He is quite tame and would not just wander off even if he figured out a way to get out of a sheep proof fence and solar hot wire. I suspect one of two things: 1. stray dogs (reported by neighbor to have been seen near my home near the time he went MIA) chased him out of the fence and into one of the nearby woods and killed him or 2. Someone stole him either for his gorgeous “mountain sheep” horns, food, or for their own flock. I have hiked the woods and can’t find a corpse.

    I suspect an increase in animal drop offs as shelters max out budget or close altogether. I suspect an increase in animal (particularly livestock) theft. I used to work as an animal control officer and in times of hardship the shelters quickly fill up to capacity (which for a municiple kill shelter meant more animals, less taxes, fewer adoptions, more euthanizing).

    I am hoping to put up wildlife cameras soon in my pasture to help figure out the mystery of the disappearing livestock, but I also plan to concentrate on smaller livestock like poultry and rabbits and phase out the larger types. It’s easier to “hide” smaller livestock from desperate people.

  67. Ginaon 08 Oct 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Oops…I forgot I am in Northern Indiana.

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