I’ve written a number of times lately about the particularly weak economy in the South.
So far, despite the concerns and predictions of economists like Nouriel Roubini, the data suggests that the nation as a whole is not currently in recession, but there’s evidence that most of the Southeast United States is in one.
The continuing housing crisis is clearly one culprit, but that has been compounded by some decisions that have directly damaged the economy — the sharp increase in electric rates in Georgia, for example, and increased restrictions on immigrant laborers and families. I’m not taking a position here on what would be the most humane way to deal with immigration issues — that path seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? — but with the economic damage being done by new laws.
From the AJC’s Report: Farm labor shortages damage Georgia’s economy:
Georgia’s economy is projected to shrink by $391 million and lose 3,260 jobs as a result of farm labor shortages this year, according to a report released Tuesday by the state’s agricultural industry.
The piece also notes that there was a shortage of more than 5,000 farm laborers this year.
From the NYT’s After Ruling, Hispanics Flee an Alabama Town:
By Monday afternoon, 123 students had withdrawn from the schools in this small town in the northern hills, leaving behind teary and confused classmates. Scores more were absent. Statewide, 1,988 Hispanic students were absent on Friday, about 5 percent of the entire Hispanic population of the school system.
John Weathers, an Albertville businessman who rents and has sold houses to many Hispanic residents, said his occupancy had suddenly dropped by a quarter and might drop further, depending on what happens in the next week. Two people who had paid off their mortgages called him asking if they could sell back their homes, Mr. Weathers said.
Grocery stores and restaurants were noticeably less busy, which in some cases may be just as well, because some employees stopped showing up. In certain neighborhoods the streets are uncommonly quiet, like the aftermath of some sort of rapture.
Overburdened with vacant homes and apartments, the South is not going to shrink itself out of recession.
From the AP piece Immigration law author tells farmers: No changes:
A sponsor of Alabama’s tough new immigration law told desperate tomato farmers Monday that he won’t change the law, even though they told him that their crops are rotting in the field and they are at risk of losing their farms.
Republican state Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale met with about 50 growers, workers, brokers and business people Monday at a tomato packing shed on Chandler Mountain in northeast Alabama. They complained that the new law, which went into effect Thursday, scared off many of their migrant workers at harvest time.
And from the NYT’s Hiring Locally for Farm Work is No Cure-All, which explores the inadequacies of the various guest worker programs:
How can there be a labor shortage when nearly one out of every 11 people in the nation are unemployed?
That’s the question John Harold asked himself last winter when he was trying to figure out how much help he would need to harvest the corn and onions on his 1,000-acre farm here in western Colorado.
The simple-sounding plan that resulted — hire more local people and fewer foreign workers — left Mr. Harold and others who took a similar path adrift in a predicament worthy of Kafka.
The more they tried to do something concrete to address immigration and joblessness, the worse off they found themselves.