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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 30, 2009 at 9:45 AM

Now it’s President Obama’s recession and job losses are worry No. 1

Top of the News: If he ever really had one, President Obama’s honeymoon officially ended with today’s consumer confidence report.

The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence for June dropped to 49.3, from a revised 54.8 in May. This is a yardstick that, among other things, gives retailers a sense of whether business will rebound or not. In good times, the index is in the 80s. Today’s decline was unexpected.

The big worry among consumers is continued job losses. The Labor Department reported today that joblessness rose in metro areas again. In Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, the May rate was 8.8 percent, a year-over-year increase of 4.3 percentage points. Portland posted an 11.6 percent unemployment rate. In Spartanburg, S.C., it’s 12.3 percent; Rocky Mount, N.C., 14.2 percent; Muskegon, Mich., 15.8 percent; El Centro, Calif., nearly 27 percent.

Fairly or not, it is now Mr. Obama’s recession, and jobs are the top concern.

The Back Story: Seattle port commissioners are scheduled to vote today to restart construction on the consolidated rental-car facility at Sea-Tac. If approved, it would get as many as 119 people back to work by the end of July. Over the project’s life, up to 3,000 jobs could be created.

Meanwhile, the CEOs of the major West Coast ports were in the other Washington last week meeting with legislators to discuss economic competitiveness and infrastructure.

The ports handle two thirds of U.S. international trade and stake a claim to be among the larger employers and job generators in the West, with more than 145,000 direct and indirect jobs with average salaries between $70,000 and $80,000. Yet the recession has hammered them, dropping container traffic by 20 percent or more. In the first quarter, Seattle traffic fell 24 percent and Tacoma 15 percent.

The port bosses hope to get Congress focused on legislation to make the American ports more competitive against looming competition from Canada, Mexico and a widened Panama Canal. Among the recommendations: Create a freight movement program with dedicated funding.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

The next big scandal

A license plate Ponzi scheme

Bernie’s now in jail

Comments | More in Jobs/Unemployment, Ports of Seattle and Tacoma

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