With too little work to go around, many of the people with free time this Labor Day would rather be on the job, any job. General uncertainty and statistics such as the nation’s unemployment rate, up in August to 9.6 percent, have made optimism scarce among employers and employees alike.
Things could be worse — and were just a year ago, when the local unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent. By this summer, it was down to 8 percent. There has been good news recently in the state’s higher-than-expected August tax revenue collections and drop in first-time unemployment filings, in word that Bombardier Learjet doesn’t expect to cut production in Wichita, and in the forecasts of lower gasoline prices and natural-gas bills.
The community also can hope that reason, foresight and skilled negotiation lead to mutually acceptable contracts for Machinists union workers at Cessna Aircraft and Hawker Beechcraft, staving off strikes and jobs being sent out of state.
As husband-wife Cessna workers Darren and Cynthia Hise told The Eagle at last week’s rally against the company’s offshoring of jobs, failure to get a good contract will hurt the entire Wichita economy.But both sides must avoid a situation in which the perfect is the enemy of the good.
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And to union spokesman Bob Wood’s comment in the same article that “there’s no job security in the current proposal,” many nonunion and nonaviation workers would say: Welcome to our world.
Speaking of the aircraft plants, it was infuriating to learn last week that the economic development efforts of Louisiana and Mississippi aimed at poaching Wichita’s aviation jobs are being subsidized by federal tax dollars intended for hurricane reconstruction. Wichita can win such a contest on the merits of its skilled work force and enviable concentration of suppliers, training and research. But it should not have to compete on a playing field made unlevel by federally funded incentives.
As is, the sorry state of the area economy is hitting people where they live and eat.
In one barometer, for the third month in a row, the Lord’s Diner set a shocking new record last week for diners served on a single day, 682. The economic situation also underscores both the need and challenge for the United Way of the Plains’ annual fall campaign chaired this year by Paul Allen, chief executive of Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, as it raises the stakes for social services’ holiday drives.
People should plan now to donate as much as they can to these and other vital charities to help those in our communities who are most affected by the job cuts and long slump. Just as their clients rely on them to meet basic needs, the region relies on the agencies to provide a safety net of resources and hope.
Meanwhile, south-central Kansans can hope another year will see a big improvement in the economy, and aggressive efforts by officials toward that goal. It’s easier to get excited about Labor Day when you have a job to go to the next day.