Friday, January 27, 2012

Coming of Age in a Dead Zone

Louis Ferleger:

There are 216 defined metropolitan (metro) and micropolitan (micro) areas — with populations ranging from 10,000 to 4 million — that have had unemployment rates at least two percentage points higher than the national average for either 20, 10 or 5 years (see tables 1, 2, 3 at the end of this article). These are America’s dead zones. Here employment growth is stagnant or non-existent and high levels of joblessness dominate. Some areas were once prosperous while others have recently experienced economic distress. In these communities paid work is hard to find for those who have not given up looking, and widespread involuntary idleness is the norm. ...

While different methods of gathering government data make it harder to assess the unemployment picture in New England, long-term dead zones exist in former manufacturing and mill towns such as Lawrence and Fall River, Mass., Waterbury, New Britain and New Haven, Conn., and Providence and Central Falls, R.I. These cities have characteristics similar to dead zones. In more and more American cities the lack of opportunities and poor job prospects point to the existence of more areas that have not been, but should be, recognized as emerging dead zones.

So while I didn't find Providence or Pittsburgh on the dead zones list, I was surprised to find my little home town of Huntingdon, PA on there as a 20 year dead zone. Not so much because I was surprised that it has had persistently high unemployment, but that it was big enough to be counted at all. And really, the past 20 years have almost certainly been easier on Huntingdon than the previous 20.

This may give you some perspective on my outlook on the world...

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