For those looking for work this Labor Day holiday, in the midst of the worst economic meltdown in 60 years, Monday is one more day where business doors are closed to them.
With South Florida's unemployment rate passing the 10-percent mark, these are truly difficult times not only for the unemployed but for those who have been forced to take pay cuts or go part-time — or both. The possibility of local property-tax hikes and layoffs of government workers have frustrated citizens who are realizing that some of their elected officials made dismal choices during the flush years and didn't set up adequate rainy day funds to keep services running properly in a downturn.
Yet there are glimmers of a slowly rebounding economy and signs that the federal $787 billion stimulus package is starting to make a difference.
Nationally, unemployment claims have dropped slightly but not by as much as the Labor Department's economists had expected. Manufacturing production is improving. Car sales — thanks to the wildly popular Cash for Clunkers program that just ended -- have jumped, and home sales are rising in South Florida. Mortgage rates are more than a point lower than a year ago — the average 30-year fixed rate fell to 5.41 percent.
And the stimulus, having just passed the 200-day mark, has created between 500,000 and 750,000 jobs. The Federal Reserve last week credited the stimulus for helping stabilize the economy, but there remain 6.2 million Americans getting unemployment benefits. Uncertainty remains the new normal.
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