Great Recession | St. Louis Public Radio

Great Recession

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 2, 2012 - While the nation’s overall unemployment rate has been showing improvement, a new report from the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative indicates little change for the long-term unemployed.

David Burks mans the Salvation Army's red kettle outside the Walmart store in Granite City.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Salvation Army bell-ringer David Burks was making a joyful noise in front of the Granite City Walmart on a recent Friday morning. He greeted everyone who passed his red kettle, whether they dropped in pennies or a folded dollar bill or hurried by without a glance.

“You have a good day now. Thank you, and God bless you.”

The fundraising goal for the Granite City Salvation Army is $88,000 this Christmas season, and it will take thousands of drops in the buckets to get there. The Salvation Army says its trademark red kettle campaign is as important as ever because many have been left behind by the nation's rebounding economy.

Ron Lane works in the heat shield area of the GM Wentzville Assembly Center. Lane is one of about 350 veterans that work at the plant.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of cheering well-wishers lined the streets of downtown St. Louis on Jan. 28, 2012, to welcome home veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The “Welcome Home the Heroes” parade — a rousing patriotic party with floats and marching bands — made national headlines because it was the first of its kind in the nation.

But many of the veterans honored on that crisp Saturday afternoon were unemployed. Their transition to civilian life was bogged down by an economy still trying to shake its hangover from the Great Recession — a struggle that continues for some veterans.

Laura and Patrick Banks September 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Laura Banks was all smiles as she showed a guest around the split-level home in south St. Louis County that she and her and husband bought a year ago, days after returning from their honeymoon.

Built in the 1970s, the house has a lower level they’ve furnished with a big-screen TV and a vintage bar for entertaining. She grows herbs, tomatoes and sweet potatoes in the backyard.

Homeownership marks a major financial milestone for Banks, who graduated from college in 2009 when the unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent. It’s a sign that, like many millennials, she’s recovering financially after struggling to survive the Great Recession.

CEO Bob Chapman, right, talks to an employee at a Barry-Wehmiller factory.
Provided by Barry-Wehmiller

Barry-Wehmiller’s leadership philosophy is spelled out on a wall outside the company’s parking garage in Clayton. Employees and visitors see it, coming and going:

“We imagine a society in which people care about each other first.”

Granite City native Jason Fernandez, who serves as vice president of Local 1899, was laid off 10 years ago during the Great Recession.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After a two-year wait for jobs to come back, steelworkers threw an old-fashioned street party on Saturday, just blocks from U.S. Steel’s Granite City plant.

It was a “fire up” party to celebrate 500 people finally going back to work to start up a blast furnace that was idled in December 2015, said Dan Simmons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1899.

Autoworker Chris Paplanus says umpiring helped him stay afloat after he was laid off from Chrysler during the recession. (April 11, 2018)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On a breezy spring evening, Chris Paplanus donned his umpire gear to work the plate at a girls softball game at the Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex.

It was a long first inning, with the 14-year-old pitchers on both teams struggling mightily. Each time Paplanus called a strike — Hup! — the sidelines erupted in supportive cheers.

By day, Paplanus, 60, is an autoworker at the General Motors Assembly plant in Wentzville, where he began working after a life-changing layoff a decade ago.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Public service ads about foreclosure were all over the nation's airwaves by late 2007, airing frequently at night when worried homeowners couldn’t sleep.

The messages, accompanied by somber music and stark images, urged U.S. homeowners to take action — to call a hotline or their lenders if they were falling behind on their mortgages:

“Foreclosure doesn’t affect just you, it affects your whole family, too … Because nothing is worse than doing nothing.”

St. Louis Beacon graphic | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 20, 2013: Five years after the financial crisis triggered massive job-letting across the nation, analysts say recovery in the jobs sector has been uneven -- just as it has been in the overall economy.

"A lot depends on who you work for and what your occupation is. You don’t see much of a recovery if you have traditionally worked in lower-skilled jobs, even those that pay relatively well. Those are the jobs that are either disappearing or companies just aren’t doing any hiring,’’ said Russ Signorino, a longtime St. Louis labor analyst. “If you don’t have the education or type of experience that employers are looking for, you are really having a tough time finding work that pays middle-income wages or higher. It’s difficult for a lot of people.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The local housing market, which hit bottom after the U.S. financial crisis in 2008, is continuing its slow but steady recovery, says the head of the St. Louis Association of Realtors

Through August, home prices have edged up this year in St. Louis County and St. Louis, and it’s taking about a month less to sell them, said Donna Zerega, president of the Realtors trade group, which has about 8,000 members.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 16, 2013: Marketing analysts and consultants are talking a lot these days about the U.S. economy’s new hour-glass figure: Heavy on top and bottom; trimmer in the middle.

Five years after the financial meltdown of 2008, grocers, retailers and large corporations, such as Procter & Gamble and Starbucks, have adopted strategies that target consumers at the top and bottom of the socio-economic ladder, rather than relying on the middle class to drive sales.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 12, 2013 - Five years since the financial meltdown, the number of new foreclosures in the U.S. is trending downward, but one in every 1,019 homes received some type of foreclosure filing in August, according to RealtyTrac, an online company that tracks the housing market.

Nationwide, 128,560 properties received a notice for default, auction or bank repossession last month. That was a decrease of 2 percent from July and 34 percent from August 2012. This was the 35th consecutive month that year-to-year foreclosure activity declined, according to the report released today.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 4, 2013 - As the U.S. economy continues its post-recession dawdling, economists at the St. Louis Federal Reserve believe that answers can be found in the weak balance sheets of American households still suffering from the aftereffects of the housing bust.

Although the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, they point to some gloomy facts to explain why recovery has been so slow for many families: 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 14, 2012 - While the Great Recession touched American families on every rung of the economic ladder, it piled on the pain in high-poverty neighborhoods, which had already been experiencing hard times, according to a new report from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 5, 2012 - The housing market is on the road to recovery, say the presidents of local realtors associations, but no one’s promising a smooth ride or offering an estimated time of arrival.

Glenn Vatterott, president of the St. Louis Association of Realtors, noted that sales numbers and prices are still showing positive signs, but he adds that the market still has a long way to go.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 17, 2012 - By his calculations, the nation’s financial burden grew by about a quarter of a billion dollars during the Beacon’s interview with David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general who is bringing his "$10 Million a Minute” tour to Washington University on Tuesday.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 21, 2012 - Doom and gloom are weighing on the minds of many Americans just months before the presidential election.

According to the Economist, “Four recent surveys have found that on average only 28 percent of Americans are satisfied with the condition of the country, while 70 percent are dissatisfied. Three recent surveys have found that between 69 percent and 83 percent of Americans believe that the country is still in recession (it isn’t), and only half believe that a recovery is under way.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 17, 2012 - Ronald Reagan’s signature line from the 1980 presidential debates keeps coming to mind, stuck in my head like some annoying ad jingle that just won’t go away. “There you go again.” The line effectively portrayed Jimmy Carter as the same old, same old.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 19, 2012 - Glenn Koenen, who is stepping down after 17 years as executive director of the Circle of Concern food pantry in Valley Park, says the need in western St. Louis County has not subsided in the aftermath of the great recession.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 5, 2012 - Underemployment.

Survival jobs.


Kevin Wilson, 52, of St. Louis understands the terminology coined in the aftermath of the financial meltdown of 2008 to describe the plight of millions of Americans who lost their jobs and struggled to make ends meet while they searched for new ones.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 21, 2011 - The job -- working nights for a contractor remodeling a Walmart store -- is physically demanding and an hour's drive from Kevin Wilson's home in St. Louis.

The pay -- $15 an hour -- is half as much as he made in his worst year in business management.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 1, 2010 -Americans who disagree with the notion that some banks are too big to fail will get no argument from Thomas W. Hough, chairman of the Illinois Bankers Association.

In a recent interview, Hough told the Beacon that if a large bank has problems, a system needs to be in place to wind down its operations without affecting other parts of the economy -- and without getting taxpayers involved.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 28, 2010 - As the third hard winter of the Great Recession turns to spring, how is the U.S. economy really doing? We put that question to St. Louis financial analyst Juli Niemann who described it this way: The hemorrhaging has stopped, but the patient still can't get out of bed.

That's Niemann's assessment of the big economic picture, which can often be difficult to see through all the little snapshots floating past us on any given day.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 1, 2010 - The conference center at St. Patrick Center was nearly filled with unemployed business professionals in suits and ties and "casual Friday" attire, listening to Kenneth Harrington of Washington University discuss the ups and downs of being your own boss.

The subject was entrepreneurship, and they took notes in binders -- some imprinted with their old company logos. In a way, it all seemed comfortably similar to any other business seminar held on a Tuesday morning, down to the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation and the aroma of coffee drifting in from the continental breakfast available in the adjoining room.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 21, 2010 - Monday was no holiday for this 57-year-old St. Louisan who talked candidly about his life in underemployment limbo, as he walked the two miles between his day job and his night job.

He said he works about 50 hours a week to make a quarter of the six-figure salary he lost in the financial services industry more than a year ago -- and he'd work a third job, if someone would hire him. He has applied for the graveyard shift at a casino and a convenience store.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2009 - When it comes to weathering a layoff, Russ Signorino can speak from both personal and professional experience.

The longtime expert on the St. Louis labor market lost his own job in June when the United Way of Greater St. Louis eliminated its research department. Signorino has just landed a new post: as executive director of the Gateway EITC Community Coalition, a nonprofit that he helped establish while at the United Way. The group does free tax preparation for low- and moderate-income families.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 26, 2009 - In this second holiday season of the recession, Marc Carr, 28, says he has less money to spend on gifts for his family than last year -- but, all in all, he's feeling better about his future.

Last November found Carr closing his failed women's accessories shop at a St. Louis mall and trying to figure out how to start over. This year, he's back in school, working on a master's degree in business administration, and confident that when the economy recovers he will be poised to land a good job. He is currently leaving a full-time job at a bookstore and looking for part-time work, instead, so he can concentrate on his studies.

Commentary: Who do we thank this year?

Nov 25, 2009

This article fist appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 25, 2009 - You'll be excused if you've forgotten, but Thanksgiving began as a religious holiday. The original purpose of the feast was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.

Though various cultures have celebrated the harvest since the dawn of recorded history, the 17th century Pilgrims brought the custom to the New World. They originally gathered to thank the Almighty for a favorable growing season and its resultant abundance. With their larders full, they were grateful that they would not starve during the coming winter.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 25, 2009 - Last year, Schupp Co. had a record-setting year. But the St. Louis-based advertising and marketing firm knew the economy wasn't in the best state, so it decided to cut costs, says Mark Schupp, president. The company, which employs about 34 people, stopped building additional office space, postponed infrastructure improvements and put a freeze on raises. They also considered cutting the holiday office party.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 15, 2009 - With St. Louis area police and firefighters serving as a backdrop, Vice President Joe Biden offered assurances Thursday about the state of the nation's economy -- and the need for hefty federal spending to put it back on track.

"The conversation is not whether we will have a recovery, but what shape it will take," Biden said in an address to about 200 people at the St. Louis County Police and Fire Training Center in Wellston.