Flicker of light at end of dark economic tunnel

May 13, 2009

After months of crushing economic news, a bit of light shone through last week.

The American jobless rate continues to be very bad and getting worse, but at a slower rate. When the figures were released last week 539,000 people lost their jobs and unemployment hit 8.9 per cent. That is not good, but for some it may be an early sign of a turnaround.

Canada’s labour market also appears to be hemorrhaging a bit less. Figures from last week confounded experts as an unexpected growth in employment took place. It was great news to hear 35,900 jobs were created, mainly because people are becoming self-employed. These are unstable jobs and for some it means a massive reduction in income. And, the numbers must remain in the context of a steady eight per cent unemployment rate. Again, it is a tiny ray of hope that people are clawing back from the recession.

On the heels of all these flashes of good news, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was working hard to build up his government’s economic plan. He boasted about the bond and capital markets experiencing modest comebacks. He noted the Canadian consumer confidence is returning slightly. And there was some up-tick in new house sales.

“I think that’s right. I think what we’ve all been looking for is the decline to be arrested, and I think we have some encouraging signs that that’s where we are now,” he said.

For Northumberland County, the news also seems encouraging, but don’t break out the champagne yet.

Local real estate broker David Chomitz, on his great ChomitzTV.com website, delivered news from the Cobourg Port Hope Real Estate Board, saying the number of homes being sold in the area has consistently risen over the past three months. And, the number of homes for sale is also recovering. He notes the yearly totals will likely be off for some time to come, but these are good signs.

Collins & Aikman announced five employees were returning to work and several unions have announced contracts are being accepted. Cobourg town planner Glenn McGlashon delivered good news in terms of local development last week, too. Cobourg could get 30 per cent of about 12,000 new residents and 3,000 jobs between 2007 and 2031 as part of the provincial Places to Grow strategy.

Still, 24 teachers and 20 educational assistants with the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic (PVNCC) District School Board were given layoff notices.

It is impossible to say what will happen next. The economic signals may herald a turn upward, but there are still far too many people in our community hurting from the devastating affects of unemployment and an economy in recession. Those people need help and Flaherty and his provincial counterparts should spend a lot more time improving Employment Insurance and other financial safety nets by providing more money more quickly to help ease the pain while trying to get back into the workforce.

It could be a seesaw ride for some time to come. But, along with all the beautiful flowers poking through the soil this spring, it is nice to see some signs of a budding local economy.

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