The Economy Today: Weathering the Storm

News from Colorado, Utah, California and elsewhere

USA Today leads with a story about how stimulus projects are bypassing the hardest-hit states. Of the nearly $4 billion that federal agencies have awarded so far, little of it has gone to states with the highest unemployment rates, like Michigan or Oregon. (The paper’s assessment is based on state per-capita stimulus spending, and it has a map showing the distribution.) The uneven initial allotment is due to the fact that “some federal agencies have moved more swiftly than others to sign contracts for projects funded by the stimulus,” in many cases projects that began years ago. The Washington Post decides to look at how small businesses are taking the long view of the economic downturn; they “figure a way to pay the bills by dint of their own physical labor and they chew antacids and they don’t wait for government bailouts because none are coming.”

Meanwhile, the AP reports that the number of newly laid-off people requesting unemployment benefits fell last week to 623,000, from 636,000 the previous week. However, “the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose to 6.78 million,” the largest total on record since 1967.

Two different New York Times pieces look at the effects of the recession on summer activities: one reports on summer employment at Ringling Bros. (“less than three months’ work as ticket takers, ushers and custodians, starting at minimum wage”), while the other takes up expensive camps and educational and volunteer travel programs and finds them relatively recession-proof.

The recession is affecting children of poorer families more drastically, however. An AP story reports that, in some parts of the country, mobility at schools is increasing, as “low-income families, already highly mobile, are being forced to pull up stakes and move more often.”

Colorado has gotten $12 million in federal aid to boost youth employment, the Denver Post reports. The money was made available in March, and the demand has been so strong that, in Denver, the 600 available summer jobs have already been filled.

The Salt Lake Tribune runs a story about how small businesses are coping with cash-flow problems and working through holidays.

The Kansas City Star notes that Costco, the wholesale outfit, will soon accept food stamps at two New York City stores as part of a pilot program, and in response to “the economic pressures on its shoppers.”

And the Los Angeles Times reports that teachers are going on hunger strike to protest the Los Angeles Unified School District’s plan to lay off thousands of teachers. They want the district to use federal stimulus money to avoid budget cuts.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.