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Reporters Measure Economy’s Health Across the U.S.

Business reporters and columnists from across the country assess how recent economic troubles, including inflation and housing market problems, have impacted local communities.

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    The daily drumbeat of bad economic news, from rising gas prices to falling home values and stock portfolios, is hitting the entire country now, but plays out in different ways.

    We take our own snapshot with business writers and columnists from four regions. Keith Reed is at the Cincinnati Enquirer; Doug Smith is with the Charlotte Observer; Kathy Kristof joins us from the Los Angeles Times newsroom; and Loren Steffy is with the Houston Chronicle.

    Well, Kathy Kristof, I'm going start with you, because you joined us for a similar discussion back in December. At the time, you said there was a mixed bag in your part of California, but overall not too bad. So how much has the world changed in the month since?

  • KATHY KRISTOF, The Los Angeles Times:

    Well, Pollyanna has left the building. The employment market has soured; the housing market has continued to slide; our credit markets are in turmoil. Meanwhile, the cost of everything from food to fuel has soared.

    And that makes it a lot harder for the average American consumer to feel good about going to the mall.


    Are there particular sectors, particular industries hit worse?


    Well, you know, here we have a huge housing market and financial services market, small business. And all of them are terribly hurt by the credit crisis crunch. Those businesses need capital in order to continue to thrive, and capital has dried up.

    We've also had a huge bank failure out here. And, you know, for the first time I think since the 1930s we actually had a depositor crisis, where there were little old ladies and men sitting outside of the bank trying to withdraw their money, I mean, like block-long lines. And we just have never seen that before.


    And that's the land of IndyMac, right?


    It is in the land of IndyMac.


    Keith Reed in Cincinnati, how are the economic woes playing there? In banking and credit, for example, are people able to get credit and mortgages right now?

  • KEITH REED, Cincinnati Enquirer:

    Credit is actually very difficult right now. I, not that long ago, a matter of minutes ago, finished writing a story about a project that may be put on hold because the investor in a downtown building here wants to turn it into a hotel, is not going to be able to raise the money as quickly as they want to.

    Just last week, I wrote a story about a developer of a condominium that has put that project on hold because many of his buyers or the people who would be in the market for his properties can't get mortgages or can't sell the suburban houses that they have on the market.

    So it very difficult right now to come by credit, both for the residential buyer, and for the developer, and in the commercial markets right now in the Midwest.