07/18/08 — Weighed down with worry - Wayne County residents face economic slump

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Weighed down with worry - Wayne County residents face economic slump

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 18, 2008 1:39 PM

The fact that by every official measurement America isn’t in a recession yet doesn’t matter to most local residents. They’re already feeling the pinch in their pocketbooks and in their lifestyles.

“It just sucks,” said Goldsboro resident Jennie Sorufari.

“The economy’s very bad right now,” agreed Temikia Williams, who commutes from Kinston to Goldsboro for work every day. “And it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.”

And she’s not the only one who feels that way.

According to the national economic research organization The Conference Board, with consumer confidence dropping from 58.1 (on a 100-point scale) in May, to 50.4 in June — it’s fifth lowest point since 1985 — many Americans tend to agree with those assessments.

Helping drive those pessimistic views are gas prices, which have increased an average of 46 percent for households from 2007 to 2008 according to the Neilson gas monitor report.

“Gas prices are too high. You have to plan your trips and make sure everything is organized,” Tonya Lofton said.

But not only have higher fuel prices changed people’s driving habits, they’re also affecting them in other ways.

“The problem is the price of gas, because since the price of gas went up, everybody has taken their prices up,” Ms. Williams said.

Add to that, she continued, the fact that wages don’t seem to be keeping pace, and people are hurting.

However, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, national personal and disposable incomes both actually increased 1.9 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, in May, continuing a slight upward trend since January.

Personal consumption expenditures also rose 0.8 percent for the month.

For Goldsboro resident Michael Hinnant, owner of his own lawn care business, that’s a fair description of the current situation, which while “sluggish,” hasn’t really left him worse off than this time last year.

“Gas is about the only thing bothering me. I think it’s about the same otherwise. It’s not the best I’ve seen, but it could be worse I reckon,” he said.

But the bureau’s statistics and Hinnant’s experiences don’t seem to be reflective of everyone’s reality.

“Gas is $4 a gallon, and you’re making the same thing you were making when it was $3 and $2 a gallon. And milk is now $4 a gallon. Everything’s going up,” Ms. Williams said.

And little relief is forecast, with The Conference Board also reporting employment and compensation likely to continue to soften, leading people to find it “harder to get a job, a raise or a bonus.”

But to some, an upward turn may be on the horizon, especially with the presidential election scheduled for November. “I’m not even really saying Barack Obama or John McCain — just not George Bush,” Ms. Williams said. “I’m just saying somebody different. We just need somebody different.”