Can We Call It a Recession, Yet?!

The economic picture over here in “flyover country” isn’t very rosy. The overall unemployment rate in Illinois is 7.3%, but there are sections of the state where the rate is even higher. The State of Illinois is laying off 450 of its employees, and closing 11 state parks and 12 historic sites (including the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana-Thomas house). Illinois has been hammered with job losses, wages have stagnated (actually fallen 0.6% per year since 2000), the cost of gasoline is up (163% since 2000—and don’t get me started on hipsters moaning about how we should all just take the nonexistant bus), the cost of healthcare premiums is up (29.1% for family coverage, 19.8% for individual coverage—and those folks can count themselves “lucky” as they aren’t among the 13.9% of Illinois residents without health insurance), child care costs, utility costs, food costs—no wonder 1.4 million Illinois residents (11% of the population) and 15.3% of Illinois children are below the poverty line.

How’s the economy where you live? How is your personal economy? Have you ever checked the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee website for the state-by-state snapshots?

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11 comments for “Can We Call It a Recession, Yet?!

  1. Phrone
    September 3, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Ugggh, I totally agree with you about the bus situation in the midwest. I’m from Michigan (the Detroit area) and there just aren’t buses. Period. So I hate it to no end when I hear people say “Well, if you’re that concerned with the price of gas, just take the bus!”

    That being said, Detroit has not followed the national economic trends at all. The economy has been bad for the past few years. The past few months have not been so much as a recession as much as a worsening of the already bad economic state. :|

  2. Mary
    September 3, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Ugh, the bus situation. I live in a city with some bus routes, one of which goes by my apartment complex. However, this isn’t Boston and it doesn’t come around much. I’m sick of hearing I should ride my bike or take the bus to school. I live 10 miles from school with some rather unsafe roads for biking. I can’t carry my 30 lb backpack and bike 20 miles a day. The bus doesn’t get within 8 miles of school so that doesn’t help much. It goes to the store, but the fares would cost more than the gas for my compact car and I’d be stranded there for a few hours!

    Overall MA is not doing horribly in my area, but I’m really not looking forward to paying off $200,000 in veterinary school debt on a $50,000/yr starting salary when I graduate. Tuition at my private school goes up and salaries are stagnant. People can’t afford to feed their pets, never mind pay for expensive procedures.

  3. Kristin
    September 3, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Thanks so much for this post. At least from where I stand, the economy gets more and more depressing every day.

    Honestly, my personal economy is all I have the energy to focus on right now. I’m a graduate student from a working class family and no safety net to fall back on. The stipend that I receive is just enough for housing, but doesn’t cover much more than that. And the cost of housing in the town where I live has increased astronomically over the past couple of years. I am dealing with a new medical condition and applying for disability… Because I was sick for the past six months, I have some course incompletes. This translates into “insufficient academic progress” and means that I am unable to take out any federal loans in order to help pay my bills. Private companies *will* give me student loans right now, but only at interest rates of 11 and 12 %. Because of my condition, I am unable to work additional hours in order to supplement my meager income. My recent healthcare costs are through the roof. I am behind on all of my bills and in danger of having my electricity and phone cut off. I just applied for food stamps and housing assistance for the first time in my life and am keeping my fingers crossed on that front. Local charities and food banks refuse to help students because they claim that we have “other sources of income.” I have heard some idealistic grad student types suggest that we shouldn’t be applying for assistance because we are not poor due to some structural reason–and could ostensibly not be poor after we graduate. Well… Whatever the case may be, it’ll be at least four more years before I graduate, and I’m at the point where I say… Fuck that lofty idealism. I need electricity, and I need to eat.

    And, yeah, I absolutely do realize that I’m one of the lucky ones. Well, my chances are good anyway. Unless my health deteriorates to the point that I am unable to be successful in graduate school, I’ll probably be able to get a decently-paying job with benefits after I graduate. I will probably not be stuck in the system, so to speak. But right now? Jesus fuck, it’s nothing but survival from day to day.

    Oh, yeah, and the bus system where I live? Absolute shit. I have to walk half a mile just to get to it, and I *can’t* do that right now because I have terrible inflammatory arthritis in my legs… But at least there is a bus stop. I’m originally from the South, and I grew up in a town that did not have a bus system. You HAD to have a car in order to work, and before I came to grad school a few years ago… I was caught in the sticky situation of *needing a car to get to a job* but not being able to finance a car because I didn’t have a job… Because I didn’t have a car to drive to any job. *sigh*

    So, yeah, my personal economy is definitely in recession at the moment. From what I hear, it’s a pretty widespread phenomenon of late.

  4. nuri
    September 3, 2008 at 11:38 am

    I’m lucky to be in Bloomington-Normal, which has lower-ish gas prices and at least a stable job market (if you can get in at State Farm. I haven’t, so I’ve been toiling away at my uber-low paying job at Unit 5) (Who by the way, isn’t paying our insurance premiums. We’re a little pissed. And Unionized) I’m cutting back on a lot of things — like driving. My bike is fantastic these days.

    My job didn’t keep up with inflation and rising costs, and I don’t think we’re going to be able to make it this coming year without resorting to our credit cards, and pissing off a few medical debtors. But we don’t qualify for food stamps, despite living in low-income housing, because hubby isn’t doing work-study.

    It’s a little maddening, to be honest.

  5. September 3, 2008 at 11:57 am

    I recently started taking the bus to work for one of my jobs. You’d think it’d feel downwardly mobile, but the bus systems here are so scarce that it was a miracle I found one that happened to stop near both my home and my work. Wow, I thought, I don’t have to drive to work anymore! I can just take the bus! Movin’ on up!

  6. Ms. Fakename
    September 3, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    US GDP grew 3.3% in the second quarter, so while you can call it whatever you want, and while it certainly does suck for a lot of people, it’s not a recession, by definition. No stimulus checks in the third quarter, so, we’ll see how that turns out, but the fourth would have to be down, too, for there to be a recession. A down fourth quarter would be unusual.

  7. September 3, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Well, even if the country isn’t in a recession by definition, the outcome still feels the same to me. I was laid off in Dec. 06, and haven’t even been able to get a temp job, that’s how bad the economy is. I have been in job transitions before, and it was never this bad. I’m facing foreclosure of a house I bought in ’03 and am taking care of a mother recently diagnosed with cancer. I’ve gone through my savings and if it weren’t for an unemployment extension recently enacted, I wouldn’t be able to maintain even a little. As it is, I’m going to have to go bankrupt. My only plan right now is to move out of Illinois to a more job-friendly state and hope my house sells before the bank takes possession in a few months.

  8. Ms. Fakename
    September 3, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    That’s the thing about using GDP to measure “the economy,” one hedge fund manager making a hundred million dollars on oil price spikes counts more than a thousand normal people who didn’t have all that much to begin with, losing what they did have. “Recession,” can be a useful concept (and if the GDP really were contracting, it’d be even worse), but it’s not a very precise way to look at things.

  9. September 3, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I wrote a post over at the CA NOW blog about supporting my husband and child on my income and the struggles involved with that.

  10. September 3, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    oh, don’t i kno it. i live in a teeny tiny illinois town, where the nearest job market is kankakee county. which has the third highest unemployment rate in the state. i’m halfheartedly looking for a job, but i can’t figure out the math on how i can make enough money to pay for gas to and from work plus my rent and bills. i’m a waitress, it’s what i do, and pretty much the only job i’m qualified for that isn’t minimum wage retail. even if i find a job waitressing, how the fuck am i going to make any money when nobody can afford to eat out, and if they eat out the tips are 10% at best.

  11. September 5, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    While most cities and towns are experiencing a Recession,
    Detroit is experiencing a Depression. Just as it did during the Reagan era.
    And once again, it wont be listed or recognized by the rest of the country as such, but, that is exactly what it is.
    When Shopping Centers, Malls, Grocery Stores (big chain stores)
    BANKS close-
    that is Depression.

    Not to mention the foreclosures…

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