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Darts and laurels

Laurels to talk of a federal economic stimulus package. It can’t get here soon enough, judging by the surge in demand at local helping agencies. Observers expect Barack Obama to propose a $500 billion to $1 trillion stimulus program shortly after being sworn in. It will aim at building infrastructure to get the economy going again. That will be good news for the construction industry, which has taken a big hit. At its peak in 2007 ó not so long ago ó about 1 million workers were involved in heavy construction. The number is down to 946,000, which is still a lot, but the 54,000 people who are now out of work probably would beg to differ. According to one federal study, every $1 billion in government infrastructure spending creates 28,000 jobs ó 25 percent of them directly in construction, 25 percent among suppliers and the rest in retail and other businesses boosted when workers have money to spend.
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Dart to predictions that the housing crisis will last into 2010, with foreclosures and tight credit putting the squeeze on the whole economy. That’s the word put out this week by Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. “We think we’re going to have a tough year next year,” she told the Associated Press, “and we’re preparing for that.” So many people are echoing dire predictions for 2009 that there’s danger of a self-fullfilling prophesy. But even if you don’t trust the numbers, the anecdotal evidence is all too clear ó people are out of work or working for less, and most people who work on commission are feeling the pain, too. You see their strained faces in the grocery store aisles, watch the foreclosure ads in the paper. The situation might not be as hopeless as struggling homeowners fear, though. There are agencies out there to help by offering counseling to work out a payment play or even making a mortgage payment. Chief among those agencies here is the Salisbury Community Development Corp., which has extended its services countywide. For assistance, contact Lou Adkins at 704-638-2154 or Robbie Stevens at 704-638-5383. Don’t give up. – – –
Laurels to what a top highway safety official describes as a “staggering” decline in traffic fatalities through the first 10 months of this year. Motorists are logging fewer miles, which is a primary factor in the 9.8 percent drop in auto deaths, compared to the same period in 2007. But improved safety measures are also involved, according to David Kelly, acting director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That means fatalities should continue to decline even if the plunge in fuel prices makes more drivers hit the road. Some of those improvements involve technological advances such as antilock braking systems, stability control and air bags. As a basic safety measure, however, it’s still hard to beat buckling up. The reduction in fatalities no doubt also reflects the fact that seatbelt use is at an all-time high.

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