Jobs Watch: The power of negative thinking

The latest numbers show that Oregon has lost 124,300 jobs since I took this job in December of 2007. Clearly my writing is not good for the state’s economy. So forgive me if I dispense with the cheerleading and point out a few observations that give me reason for concern.

It starts with the banks. Lake Oswego-headquartered West Coast Bank is the latest to receive an ominously worded “cease and desist” order from the FDIC. That makes three important regional banks struggling for survival, if you add Columbia River Bank of The Dalles and Bank of the Cascades in Bend. Plus the complex situation of ShoreBank Pacific, which is wholly owned by a holding company operating under a cease and desist order of its own. These banks have to improve their capital positions or else, and that means they will be more reluctant to loan than ever.

Then there’s retail. Is it me or is the premature Christmas glitter looking even more desperate than usual this season? I realize that retail drives the economy, 70% of which is based on consumer spending. But is it really the duty of every American to purchase all the world’s plastic junk? Consumers lack confidence for a reason. With so many companies cutting costs, salaries and jobs, how much longer can consumers be expected to over-spend?

The latest numbers show that Oregon has lost 124,300 jobs since I took this job in December of 2007. Clearly my writing is not good for the state’s economy. So forgive me if I dispense with the cheerleading and point out a few observations that give me reason for concern.

It starts with the banks. Lake Oswego-headquartered West Coast Bank is the latest to receive an ominously worded “cease and desist” order from the FDIC. That makes three important regional banks struggling for survival, if you add Columbia River Bank of The Dalles and Bank of the Cascades in Bend. Plus the complex situation of ShoreBank Pacific, which is wholly owned by a holding company operating under a cease and desist order of its own. These banks have to improve their capital positions or else, and that means they will be more reluctant to loan than ever.

Then there’s retail. Is it me or is the premature Christmas glitter looking even more desperate than usual this season? I realize that retail drives the economy, 70% of which is based on consumer spending. But is it really the duty of every American to purchase all the world’s plastic junk? Consumers lack confidence for a reason. With so many companies cutting costs, salaries and jobs, how much longer can consumers be expected to over-spend?

Next, there’s politics. I don’t like to write about politics, so I will keep it brief. The revived effort to kick Sam Adams out of office is not helpful. Can we please move past this?

Finally, there is my own profession, journalism. The latest circulation figures show that the Oregonian’s 12% drop was actually good compared to some of its peers. That is pathetic. The nation has lost thousands of journalism jobs over the past year, a trend that is bad for democracy as well as the economy. Does anyone really believe that citizen journalists will fill the gap by breaking stories about the CIA’s payments to Hamid Karzai’s drug-dealing brother? I don’t see that happening. It’s one thing to overhear a political blunder and blog it out, and quite another to dig up unpleasant truths about people in power.

Forgive my pessimism. Perhaps if the Dow would pop over 10,000 and stay there for, say, three days in a row, I would get over it.

Besides, the evidence would seem to indicate that the the relationship between the optimistic tone of previous Jobs Watch posts and actual gains in the state economy is inversely proportional. Perhaps the same will hold true in reverse.
Oregon Business Team

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