Christmas is coming, so I'd like to give you good news about the local economy. Unfortunately, I'm not finding it.
As the Madison Daily Leader reported last week, unemployment in Lake County jumped from 5.8% to 7.0% in October. According to the state Department of Labor, we actually added 90 jobs in October, but our workforce numbers surged by 185, meaning a net increase in the number of unemployed folks of 95. Only June this year saw more people on the streets in Lake County looking for work.
On the good side: the LAIC is now down only 220 jobs from employment levels at the beginning of its Forward Madison program in October 2006. Only 660 new jobs to create to meet program goals by the the beginning of 2012!
(I'm not the only one wondering how the LAIC could have done so little with its Forward Madison money: Gale Pifer asks a similar question about big LAIC funding and declining job numbers in a Madison Daily Leader letter to the editor this week.)
My usual yardstick: land of milk and honey Brookings County also saw an increase in unemployment in October, from 3.2% to 3.4%. They added 355 jobs, but saw the workforce grow by 410.
In other grim economic news, Madison's October sales tax collections dropped over 20% compared to collections in the same month last year. All of Lake County saw gross sales of $48,361,717.36 in October this year. In October 2008, the conty saw gross sales of $61,754,272.25.
Things are tough all over: seven of the ten biggest towns in South Dakota saw sales declines. Among that group, Brookings saw the worst slide from last year, down 9.5%. Overall, 132 out of 228 communities reported October sales tax declines. But note: Deuel County economic development maven Briana Hoffman reports that the mighty metropolitan area of Gary has done more business in the first ten months of 2009 than it did in all of 2008.
A sliver of Madison sales hope: I dropped by Radio Shack in Madison the other day to look at computers. They had just one machine in stock: "Hot Friday" sales cleaned them out!
I remain torn. If sales are down because people are choosing to buy less and save more, that's great! But if locals are buying less because they're out of work and living off savings, well, then I just might add a tear to the LAIC's beer.
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