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Recession watch: We've lost some competitors... and it hurts

This post is part of a series about real-life signs we're in a recession.

Normally, the loss of competitors in your field of business could possibly be considered a good thing, giving a boost of orders and income to your own business or employer. In today's economic climate however, the loss of competitors gives me cause for concern. Even as we struggle to accommodate growth in our facility, I'm worried by the downfall of some of our wood products compatriots. I know I've written that it doesn't pay to cry over lost manufacturing jobs, but that doesn't mean we should be without compassion either.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) reports for March that its Small Business Optimism Index is at its lowest point since the second quarter of 1980. Businesses are complaining that increased selling prices are not keeping up with overhead inflationary pressures. Nearly one-quarter of the NFIB survey respondents indicated that they raised employee compensation by a margin which is outstripping profitability increases. I believe that therein lies the downfall of my company's fallen competitors.

One of the biggest concerns I have with these job losses is that they tend not to be felt outside their own regions. We as a country lose a hundred good jobs here or there every day, in a hundred unnamed places. But it doesn't make the headlines because it doesn't sell advertising space. Government statistics never paint the whole picture either. The government bean counters expect that we're too dull to understand that the loss of a well-paid machinist is not mitigated by the addition of yet another undocumented food service worker. They only give you the bottom line numbers, painted with a broad and blurry stroke of the brush.

So, my employer's loss of competitors has a core which tastes quite bitter. As I work my long hours I sometimes pause to think; Was that competitor we lost as much a buyer of my goods as it was a rival? Could my employer be the next to go under, or my neighbor's, or yours? Please say a quiet prayer for the unemployed among us, then get back to work. That is, if you still have it.

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