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Sour Economy, Layoffs Dampen Inland Holiday Spirit

Black Voice News, News Report, Chris Levister Posted: Nov 26, 2008

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas. College students, high schools, seniors and those in need of a part time holiday job are getting into that pre Christmas spirit but they are in for a rude awakening.

You know the economy is in trouble when you see Salvation Army Red Kettles before Halloween. But outside a San Bernardino supermarket a jolly bell ringer festooned in red and black offered Curtis Thompson, 48 a sprig of optimism: dont panic. Its gonna get better,

But the out of work construction worker isnt buying it literally. He has filled out job applications at almost 40 places since the end of September including Circuit City which filed for bankruptcy protection last week. So far hes racked up big gas bills in a futile attempt to find work in hopes of saving his home on Piedmont Drive in Highland from foreclosure.

Competition for some of the most menial holiday jobs is fierce. Its insane out here, he said with an air of panic in his voice. In fact new jobless figures show the region slammed by the housing meltdown is over 9% compared to 6.5% national average - a 14 year high.

A victim of the regions soured housing market Thompson was laid off in September after his company filed for bankruptcy. The seriously delinquent borrower is 3 months behind on his mortgage and hes worried that he wont qualify for the governments latest homeowner mortgage rescue plan because without a job he can not show he can make payments on a smaller loan. I worked for the same company since 1992 It never occurred to me Id be out here worrying about how to put food on the table. says Thompson.

Hes not alone. Financial giant CitiCorp plan to lay off 53,000 workers in 2009. Its a scary time, Roberta Allen, 32 a nursing student said. Divorcee Allen says shes had no luck finding a part-time holiday job and is preparing to pawn her gold wedding rings. People are worried. She believes excessive worry can make the economy worse. If employers dont hire and people fall into their own defensive crouch, they wont spend during the holidays. What can you do, its a

A problem for retailers, like those at Inland Empire shopping meccas such as Inland Center, Tyler at Galleria, Ontario Mills and Victoria Gardens all of which are seeing slowing sales as the economy stalls.

Allen is worried that less money in her pocket will mean no gifts under the holiday tree. I have a 4 and 6 year old. How do you explain Christmas without presents? Thompson wearing an Obama button isnt sure what anyone, including President-elect Barack Obama and his incoming administration, can do to temper the current worries. He says he thinks Obama
will create jobs and turn things around.

But unfortunately not soon enough says Kathleen Oles, deputy director of programs and operations for the San Bernardino Workforce Investment Boards business unit.

Gone are the days when our phones rang off the hook employers seeking part-time seasonal workers said Oles.

Were getting far fewer requests. Employers are done hiring for this holiday season. Laid off seniors and experienced workers have flooded the market. Theyre willing to work longer for less so that puts pressure on college and high school students looking for work.

Employment studies show Inland companies plan to slash their work forces by 13 percent between October and December. Analysts say some of the positions are construction and financial related, but the majority of them are retail jobs, such as cashiers and stock clerks.

Last week Circuit City Stores, Inc. announced it is shutting down six Inland Empire stores part of its national bankruptcy protection filing. Foreclosures have skyrocketed.

Gas prices have dropped but dont feel a lot cheaper. With Wall Street edging back from the brink, the crisis of consumer confidence has become the No. 1 short term issue for the economy.

The government expects jobless people to pay their mortgage, feed their kids and with confidence go out and create more debt. People are worried but theyre not stupid. said Thompson.

Stupid or not the growing financial anxiety is keeping the phones ringing at Thurman Lee Jones marriage and family counseling practice in Highland.

Ive seen a big up tick in marital problems particularly among minorities and low income families. You know the drill last hired, first fired or laid off, said Jones.

Theres a lot of pressure on already fragile families. We see a lot of misery and hand wringing. People are watching their retirement and pensions disappear, they cant afford to retire. For people young and old, the magnitude of this downturn is beginning to sink in. Its not a pretty picture.

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