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.
6 days ago