Of all the tea-leave readings, economic projections, and number crunching, this could be the gloomiest assessment for Elkhart area so far: A new report released by U.S. Conference of Mayors predicts that for Elkhart-Goshen to return to peak, pre-recession employment levels could take 30 years.
The report, "U.S. Metro Economies: Rate of Recovery," released at the annual meeting of American mayors in Washington, D.C., says labor markets will pick up steam in 2011-2013. But half of all metro areas—185—will not achieve pre-recession peak employment levels until 2013 and beyond, according to the report, prepared by IHS Global Insight.
Of the 350 cities included in the survey, 15, including Elkhart-Goshen, will not get back to the low jobless rates of their boom times until 2039, reports Josh Weinhold, who is covering the 3-day event for The Elkhart Truth.
Despite positive signs in the economy emerging at the end of 2009, the mayors' statement said most cities are "far away from recovery—especially in their labor markets."
The mayors are calling for the federal government to provide more direct support for cities, including fiscal help for local governments in especially hard-hit areas, more block grants for communities to undertake conservation projects, neighborhood revitalization and community policing. They call for renewal of federal stimulus money for youth summer jobs. And they want federal dollars for transportation to target urban areas more than they currently do, helping cities address congestion and joblessness.
"This data is solid proof that we need the Senate to pass a MainStreet jobs package now,” said Elizabeth Kautz, president of the organization and mayor of Burnsville, Minn. “We are in the middle of a jobs emergency that demands decisive and swift action.”
The mayors’ urgent appeal for jobs was underscored by a major economic report also released Wednesday forecasting job recovery and unemployment rates in the nation's 363 metropolitan areas, where 85% of the people in this country live. The report indicated that over 105 metros will still have unemployment rates above 10 percent; and 214 metros will have unemployment rates higher than 8 percent by the end of 2011, the mayors said in a statement.
On Thursday, the mayors’ took their case to the White House in a meeting with President Obama and his Economic Advisory Team.
The full "Metro Economies" report can be viewed in pdf format on the U.S. Conference of Mayors Web site.