CommunityPam's House Blend

Q of the day: how bad is the economy where you are?

Since the stellar work of George W. Bush and the Republicans has run the economy into the ground in ways no one thought possible, I thought I’d take the pulse of readers.

How bad a shape is the economy in where you are?

Share some observations, and perhaps a few links to recent local papers about layoffs, closings and levels of unemployment. I’ll start off with some news from here in NC, and it’s not looking good. A couple of items from the News & Observer.

The Triangle’s jobless rate surged in the past month to 7 percent, the highest in more than two decades, as the yearlong recession takes hold of the region.

The rate rose from 6.1 percent in November, according to figures released Friday by the N.C. Employment Security Commission and adjusted for seasonal effects by Wachovia in Charlotte.

With state unemployment at 8.7 percent last month, few areas were spared more job losses in December. The rate rose in 97 of the state’s 100 counties.

And Nortel Networks, a big employer in the Triangle (at one time it had 8,500 workers here, now it’s about a quarter of that peak number), has filed for Chapter 11, with this impact:

In his 26 years with Nortel Networks, Bill Vosburg survived repeated company-wide job cuts and said goodbye to numerous colleagues. On Dec. 8, it was his turn. The layoff notice, however, came with a severance package that guaranteed a paycheck and health care benefits into September.

Those guarantees proved meaningless five weeks later when Nortel sought bankruptcy protection from creditors. The move suspended severance pay and medical benefits for untold numbers of Nortel veterans. On the day of the bankruptcy, workers were frantically e-mailing and calling one another, looking for answers, checking in, seeking support.

How about higher ed, another linchpin in the local economy?

UNC President Erskine Bowles said today he expects to seek legislation to furlough university employees in response to cuts in state appropriations.

The university system is facing cuts up to 7 percent in state funding. Bowles did not go into detail about how many employees might be affected by the furloughs, which are unpaid mandatory leaves.

IBM’s bleeding big time here; it had a high of 11,000 staff here in RTP at one point, and the slashing has been fast and furious — and there are more cuts to come.

Last week IBM eliminated more than 2,800 jobs in its software and sales and distribution groups in the United States and Canada, according to Alliance, including an unknown number in RTP. IBM also laid off 38 workers in RTP in November and cut 100 local contract workers in October.

…”But we don’t have numbers yet,” said Lee Conrad, national coordinator of Alliance@IBM. “Once again IBM is not saying how many are being cut.”

…Conrad said his organization probably will be able to calculate the magnitude of the latest round of job cuts this evening, after receiving documents that the company gives to laid-off workers. “This one might be very large,” he said.

Even our airport is feeling the burn of the Bush economy ass-kicking.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport might temporarily close one of its two passenger terminals to save money in 2011, if demand for air travel continues in a slump that started last year.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding