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A story in Stateline.org gives context for the differences states are seeing in layoffs and job losses. Stephen Fehr tells the story of a small manufacturing plant closing in Philip, South Dakota (map above). There have been a number of small manufacturing businesses that have closed their doors in the state, but South Dakota’s unemployment rate is still among the best in the nation. North Carolina, meanwhile, has had huge job losses, mostly because of the same downturn in manufacturing that closed the plant in Philip. The lesson? The less manufacturing a state had at the beginning of this recession, the fewer the job losses in the first few months of 2009. North Carolina followed a development path in years passed that emphasized rural manufacturing. Now the state is paying the price.
Fehr goes on to explain that job losses affect small communities in a different way than cities. “But 12 high-wage jobs (lost) represents 3 percent of the jobs in Philip, or the equivalent of 4,000 layoffs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city,” Fehr wrote. “Proportionately, it’s bound to have a big impact” on a town of 800 residents, said Raymond Ring, an economics professor at the University of South Dakota.
“There’s also a social cost to losing your job,” Fehr wrote. “We all know everybody,” said the state’s labor secretary, Pam Roberts. “I know people who work at Scotchman (the plant in Philip). It’s one degree of separation in South Dakota, not six.”