Friday, April 22, 2011

The Human Cost.

The Bulletin this morning had a startling statistic: there were four suicides last month in Bend.

Now, I don't know how many of these suicides can be attributed to the economy, but chances are -- it doesn't help to be young and unemployed and hopeless or old and unemployed and losing your house.

We know that the horrible murder/suicide lately in the news might be traced back to day trading and the loss of the retirement nest-egg.

Compare that the high flying stock market, and multi-million dollar bonuses, and the upbeat news, and the hopeful new businesses and you'd think we were pulling out of this thing.

Yesterday's article in the Bulletin about housing starts, trumpeted a 45% increase in the first quarter of 2010. Which, if you read a little closer, is an increase of 31. Total building works out to about 33 per month -- which is still a bare fraction of the number during the housing boom.

I appreciated that the article included the caveats that I always try to point out: "Much of the recent home building has occurred in developments under way when the economy imploded in late 2008. Permits, or plans, for some had previously been approved..."

I know in my own business that it isn't always the best plan in the face of a downturn to keep cutting and cutting -- sometimes you have to buy and improve just to show you're still in the game, to make a point, to try to interest people in the "new."

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't easier to sell a newly built house than a new house that has been sitting on the market for over a year. (Sort of like, I suspect it's easier for a newly unemployed person to find a job than one who has been sitting on the couch for over a year.)

It's as much psychology as it is real need for more houses. That and finishing up the job that you've already paid and been approved for...

I was talking to an older man from Sisters who had lost his house. He had bought at the absolute peak, but figured he could always get his money back "even if the house drops in half." (Boy, does that sound familiar -- it was my constant refrain during the first couple of business bubbles -- "We'll be all right, even if it drops in half.")

This man had been a professional, and had earned a good income through his life, and it was all gone.

Both Linda and I have had pretty slow months. It just doesn't feel like people are in the mood to spend money right now. I've got some hopes for summer, which is getting closer and closer, because I do believe other parts of the state and country are doing better than we are, and tourists might be willing to spend money.

Anyway, my overall feeling is -- despite all you hear or read, that Bend hasn't really started a recovery yet. We're really lucky that people still want to move here and still want to start businesses -- but that is only making the hole smaller, not disappearing the hole.


H. Bruce Miller said...

Oregon overall has a high suicide rate -- #11 in the country:

"Oregon’s suicide rate is 35 percent higher than the national average. The rate is 15.2 suicides per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 11.3 per 100,000.
After decreasing in the 1990s, suicide rates have been increasing significantly since 2000, according to a new report, 'Suicides in Oregon: Trends and Risk Factors,' from Oregon Public Health." See

Jack Goodman said...

I have been a partially employed media professional here in town that went from earning $30-50 an hour full time to part-time and barely making $15 an hour. I have been on the job search for 2 years and hear the same thing all the time: 1) Why would you want to work here? 2) You are way over qualified. It has literally taken me from a place where I grew to love this town to almost hating it and desperately looking for something outside though my options are limited. The honest truth is things are not getting better here. I think city council, certain people in certain areas of town, and local media like to blow smoke up our asses, but when I can't even feed myself or pay me rent and have a specialty skill hardly anyone has...well...frustrated to say the least. These suicides and deaths are a sad result and talking with people...especially young people...I can't help but feel more are on the way if people don't start being realistic and admitting Bend is not the shining beacon of hope it once was. As I was fond of saying...and has now happened...Babylon has fallen. It is up to the ones that have AND love this community to eating out at the local eatery or making an appearance at that event/concert more important that donating money and/or time to a local shelter/food bank, supporting local business that doesn't just recycle money, or reaching out and making a difference. It is just drug addicts and the lazy. Real people are losing their lives in this town. Something has to change!

Carl said...

Day trading?? Wasn't that done with year's ago?? So you lose the nest egg and do the wife and then yourself?? There has to be more to it than that? Did she cast aspersions on his manhood when learning he blew the family nest-egg and threaten to leave? So he feeds her a bullet? As Dunc said, "It's only money".

Then he does himself in the crawl space under the house> What did he figure, the smell would eventually lead them to him? He had something loose and this has more to do than $$ lost.

BTW, Bend is a nice summer place, short, but nice. You had better not have to earn a living here though.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"As Dunc said, "It's only money".

I feel that way too. But our society places a terrible stigma on financial failure, especially if you're a man.

"You had better not have to earn a living here though."

Ditto that. I'm always amazed by how many people move here without a job, assuming they're going to find one. In a few weeks or months their savings are gone and then they're showing up at the food pantries. It's crazy.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"BTW, Bend is a nice summer place, short, but nice."

Bend has four seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction. (Posted on Facebook)

RDC said...

A lot of Bend's jobs were tied up in real estate. Realistically it will be lucky if 25% of those jobs ever return (those in construction, real estate sales, financing, etc.). Bend has also lost most of the aviation related jobs and the RV manufacturing jobs. The only thing that has come in to replace any of those is telemarketing. Bopttom line is that Bend has lost a pretty high percentage of its jobs that would have been considered to be well paying.

The real estate was driven by people from California that could buy in Bend because they were flush with cash from selling houses in CA. That certainly won't reappear for awhile.

Duncan McGeary said...

Weirdly, though,it feels like we're still getting people moving to town and opening businesses.

mechanic jobs said...

I feel that way too. Now people are leaving the towns too. Financial failure definitely effects men.