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The Real Economy: Eyewitness Accounts from Around the Globe


Minyanville Ambassadors send in reports from the front line.

Editor's Note: This is the first part in an ongoing series.

As the Minyanville Underground Railroad picks up steam, it seems only right to put our Ambassadors in the spotlight. As such, we recently posed the following assignment in hopes that we'd get a feel for the state of affairs from our numerous representatives around the world.

Can you please, in one paragraph or less, offer your take on the current state of affairs in your region? With Ambassadors in all 50 states and 35 countries, the collective feedback will help paint a truer picture of the socioeconomic state of affairs.

We've compiled some of their ideas below and will continue to release these to the community in the coming days.

From Chicago, IL
Minyan Gainor

Overall, I'd say things here are no worse than most other metropolitan areas, and maybe a bit better than average. That said, there's plenty of pain to go around, and most people are feeling the pinch in one way or another.

A few anecdotal highlights:

1. Jewel/Osco (SVU) and Dominick's (SWY) have recently slashed prices about 20% across the board to stay competitive with the discount grocers -- namely, Wal-Mart (WMT) and Meijer. People were okay to shop there for the sake of convenience before the recession. Now, with ultra-price-sensitive consumers, they've had to lower prices to keep people coming in.

2. My airport taxi driver told me his business is down about 30% due to layoffs and decreases in business travel. He's Indian, and some of his regular Indian customers (mostly those in IT) have been sent back to India due to downsizing.

3. The "honest" real-estate agents I've talked to say this has been the worst year ever for them so far. One guy -- a Re-Max agent in the top 10 for this area who was selling 225 houses per year when it was good -- said he's closed only a handful of sales in the first 5 months of this year. He's even taking on rentals now to fill in the gaps, and says even the buyers with money are very slow to move and throwing in really low-ball offers to see what they can get. He's been in the business for over 20 years.

4. A number of people in my church have expressed a need for assistance due to job losses, but church-giving has been pretty consistent and hasn't fallen as much as might be expected. This suggests that people who still have resources have actually increased their giving to help make up the difference. While this is good for my church and its members, it probably means that they've cut spending in other areas of the economy. There's definitely a more concerted effort to help each other right now and to not spend frivolously.

From Washington, DC
Ryan J. Cudnik

I sense, in relative terms, the crisis is not as "bad" here (yet?) as it is in other cities and parts of the US. Let me qualify that statement by limiting it to Washington, DC itself, and noting that conditions in the 'burbs may be more in line with the average effects felt nationally. Overall, the bottom hasn't fallen out of the housing market in DC, and those I know who have lost jobs here have found new, similarly paying jobs in the area within a month.

Moreover, the mood in DC seems less tense than, say, New York City (this comparison is based on my visits to NYC over the past year, conversations with my NYC "crew," and my familiarity with both cities -- I grew up in this area, lived in NYC from 2002-2008, and have been back in DC for a little over a year).

That's not to say everything is peachy. The first-quarter job cuts had many on edge. I can personally attest to the uneasiness in the legal profession at the time, when associates and support staff were being cut at record rates. Behind the legal headlines, most cuts at large firms were in the M&A, corporate, and real-estate-practice groups. But the fear of job loss was felt across the board -- even in typically insulated practices like mine (intellectual property/patent law).
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