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Keep the numbers in perspective

Trying to gauge the impact of the growing jobless rate on Pike County is an imperfect science, even for those schooled in the process.

Because our local unemployment rates track residents who live in Pike County but work outside of the county – in areas such as Montgomery or elsewhere where plant closings and staffing reductions have been more prevalent – economic development leaders say the county’s jobless rate figures are skewed higher than perhaps they should be. As Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Economic Development Corp. explained, “unemployment follows the employee.”

For example, May’s 8 percent unemployment rate, which is more than double the 3.5 percent unemployment rate for Pike County in May 2008, is surprisingly high, they say.

“We’ve not had any significant closings or layoffs,” Gaylard said this week.

And that’s important to remember.

While jobless claims continue to rise across the nation, up to 9.4 percent in May, our economy has been remarkably stable here in Pike County. Yes, we’ve had layoffs and cutbacks. Some retailers have felt the pinch. But we’ve had plenty of growth and stable businesses as well. And, stories such as the purchase of Hendricks Building Supply by Townsend Building Supply this week, saved numerous jobs and kept open a key business in our community. And we need to recognize how important those types of success stories are to our economy.

As our nation struggles to grow out of the economic downtown, we are inundated almost with economic data that tracks the ups and downs of our economy. It’s important the we try to keep the numbers in perspective, and, more important, keep in mind the people behind the numbers.