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Cuts Hit Close To Home

Editorial for Jan. 15, 2009

We continue to hear the scary economic news. In December, payroll employment in the United States fell by another 524,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate jumped from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent. And there appears to be no end in sight for now.

Here's how the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explained it: "In December, job losses were large and widespread across most major industry sectors." There are now 11.1 million unemployed citizens in the United States.

There is dire employment news in the state of Washington too, of course. According to the Washington Employment Security Department, Spokane County will eliminate 58 jobs in 2009. Meanwhile, Cowlitz County "will lay off dozens of people" to make up a $5.8 million budget shortfall.

More than 90,000 people applied for unemployment benefits in Washington in December 2008 -- a 75 percent increase over the number in December 2007. Further, there were 136,000 Washingtonians getting unemployment benefits at the end of 2008, as opposed to "only" 73,000 at the end of 2007.

And in some troubling news for Bingen-based Insitu -- which is now wholly-owned by Boeing -- Boeing sees some big dark clouds on its horizon, too.

On Jan. 9, Boeing announced that it will eliminate approximately 4,500 positions in 2009 "as part of an effort to ensure competitiveness and control costs in the face of a weakening global economy." Boeing representatives explained that 60-day layoff notices would be issued on Feb. 20, with most of the layoffs coming in the second quarter of the year. Most of the job losses were expected to be in the Puget Sound area, but there could well be impacts to our community as well.

It's not always somewhere else or someone else feeling the pain of jobs cuts. In just one representative example of what is being played out across the state and the nation, the White Salmon Valley Community Library will lose one of its full-time employees as of Feb. 1. And libraries in Stevenson and Goldendale will no longer be open on Mondays in a cost-cutting move. The local libraries are a valuable resource that serve entire communities, and it's sad to see the ripple effect of the overall economic conditions.

Yet the reality is, in this economy, there sure aren't any guarantees. Where is it going to stop? And can any of us feel secure in our jobs these days? As President-elect Barack Obama has warned us, it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

We hope and expect -- and frankly, we must insist -- that Congress and the new president not delay in coming up with an economic plan that begins to turn things around. The 2008 election was an emphatic demand by the voters that a new approach be tried after the failed economic policies of the previous eight years. There is simply no time to waste.

JB

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