Friday, November 14, 2008

Chicago's Jewish community is about to need more help.

Relying on national corporations to provide jobs is a losing proposition.
Nov 13, 2008 11:05 am US/Central
Mayor Daley: Prepare For Mass Layoffs
CEOs Tell Mayor They Plan Huge Layoffs In November, December
by Joanie Lum

...The news is especially alarming because the discussion concerns not just city jobs, but the private sector. Thus, it seems the City That Works is about to become the city that gets laid off.

Mayor Daley says corporate leaders told him huge layoffs will impact the city this month and next, and into the new year. He also says city, county and state governments should be prepared for their revenue to fall dramatically because of the souring economy.

"This is going to be all year, so it's going to be a very frightening economy," Mayor Daley said. "Each one tells me what they're laying off, and they're going to double that next year. We're talking huge numbers of permanent layoffs for people in the economy. It's going to have a huge effect on all businesses."

The mayor said the gravity of the situation cannot be underestimated.

"We never experienced anything like this except people who came from the Depression," Mayor Daley said. "When you have that many layoffs early – and they're telling me this is only the beginning of their layoffs – that is very frightening."

...Upon hearing the mayor's grim news, workers were jittery, to say the least.

"I'm an analyst for one of the largest credit bureaus in the city, and I'm really concerned with the economy right now; the structure that we're in," said Tonya Farr. "I don't want to be laid off, hopefully not."

"Even if you have a job it's scary. You don't know if it's going to last. You don't know if you're going to keep it or not?" said Michelle Thompson. "So, what are we to do?"

Every sector of the job market is suffering. "I've been applying at millions of places, and it's just so hard to get a job. They're cutting hours like crazy – at McDonald's," said Ramona Patino.

Job placement analysts say end-of-the-year layoffs are at a five-year high.

"The last quarter is often the heaviest time of the year for downsizing. Often, that means much more hiring at the beginning of the year as companies start to grow again and think about the future," said John Challenger of the placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. "This year, it's going to be much more difficult because the economy is in recession. No one expects to come out of it by January or February."

Meanwhile, those who have jobs are just trying to hold on.

"I'm budgeting my money. I paid my bills at the beginning of the month, and that's it. I ride the rest of the month on maybe $10 in my pocket a week," said commuter Kurt Korzi. "It's tough. It's really tough."

"People can't afford to do certain things that they're used to doing, so if there's no revenue coming in, how can a business stay alive?" said Sonya Robinson. "They say that they're going to help us and technically, it's not helping us, because we're paying more taxes and working like a slave, and not getting anything out of it in return."

I'll spare you the part of the article where they bewail the upcoming holiday shopping season. Chanukkah was never the big production that Christmas has become (in spite of the fact that the man was likely born at Sukkot, per the Hebrew version of the nativity in Luke, rather than at the Feast of Mithras/Saturnalia of the pagan Romans).

But even Chanukkah at our house is being scaled back this year. We usually ask for a list of (g-rated) computer games, paperback books, board games, candy, music and DVDs the guys would like, and in the past we have a "tradition" of going to the movies for one night of Chanukkah (if there's anything decent playing, of course) - most years it's the only time we go to the movies. That's not going to happen this year, and instead of a small gift to unwrap each night, I'm just going to give them some cash on the first night, to spend as they wish. This will be a lot cheaper than me buying 28 small gifts (7 nights x 4 boys). Although I understand many people who observe Christmas would by that many gifts for a single child (between the parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, and siblings, I sincerely hope), Chanukkah has been for us in the past one of our budgeted yearly expenses, though not as bad as Passover. Many Christian and Secular business owners rely on the holiday shopping season to pad and make up deficiencies in their yearly budget, and it looks like that isn't going to work this year. Jews with secular jobs in service and retail industries are going to be affected by the downturn.

I don't know how much Chanukkah is generally celebrated in Chicago. It might be a big deal there, I don't know. Perhaps I'll ask Rav Harry at Emet ve Emunah. But either way, we should remember that it's not the simchas we should be worrying about - it's people's food, medicine, clothes, heat and housing we should be focusing our charitable giving upon, the "needs" and not the "wants." Chicago is going to be, unfortunately, our "canary in the coal mine." How well we can prop up and refocus the Jewish economy there may well be a test case for how well our own communities can be propped up and how well we can transition to the new relocalization paradigm.

How goes Chicago goes the rest of us, eventually. So let's help it go well. If you would like to donate to the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of the Metro Chicago area, their website is here.

Shabbat Shalom to all of us.

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