Unemployment soars in Georgia

View of downtown Atlanta, Georgia, from Piedmont Park

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal:
Given that most of us don't work anywhere near Wall Street,we don't trade in credit default swaps, or worry too much about the overnight lending rate for big banks--it's easy to tune out the particulars of the financial crisis news du jour.

But Marketplace's Steve Henn reports, those particulars are affecting regional economies all over the country.


Steve Henn: For decades Georgia could bank on one thing. It's economy was probably better than the rest of the country's. Not right now. Michel Thurmond is the state's labor commissioner.

Michel Thurmond: This is Georgia's highest unemployment rate in more than 15 years.

And initial unemployment claims are up 72 percent from last year. Thurmond's keeping unemployment offices in Georgia open at least 10 hours a day, five days a week to process all the claims.

Thurmond: Job losses have been across the board, ahhh, from residential construction, to manufacturing. And most troubling now, we are beginning to see losses in the retail sector.

The first wave of job losses came in construction after the housing bust. But economist Stephen Levy says a new wave is on the horizon.

Stephen Levy: We are really at the whim of the consumer now -- and I am fairly pessimistic.

Levy's worried consumer spending could soon crumble and hurt local economies like Elkhart, Indiana that missed the housing craze.

Levy: There is a lot of Midwestern common sense around here.

Kyle Hannon is at Elkhart's Chamber of Commerce. This small city never had a housing bubble -- but it's feeling the pop. Its economy is all about building RVs -- those big gas-guzzling motorhomes.

Kyle Hannon: People who lost a lot of wealth suddenly weren't buying RVs -- that wasn't an option for them anymore.

That's meant big layoffs, and Elkhart's unemployment rate has more than doubled in the past 12 months.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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