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Through the voices of its people, the map shouts.
From Atlanta, Ga., listen to Marian Chamberlain -- 65, jobless, and no longer eligible for unemployment: "I will never be able to retire." From Shakopee, Minn., listen to Bruce Paul, 56, a vintage car mechanic laid off in January and unemployed for the first time since Richard Nixon was president. Today he and his wife spend their days in the public library to reduce energy costs at home. "You go out and they say, you know, you need a resume. And I say, `A resume? What's that?'"
From Broomfield, Colo., listen to U.S. Marine and construction worker Simon Todt, 27, a combat-arms specialist who returned from three tours in Iraq only to be laid off from his construction job in December. He smiles wanly as he sums up his situation: "There's not a big calling in the civilian world for explosives." The republic is brimming with Americans like these. And the Associated Press Economic Stress Map helps us find their voices and tell their stories.
Here are some fleeting examples of what the Stress Index tells us:
--The current recession spread like an epidemic from isolation to ubiquity, marching from sequestered pockets of foreclosure to a nationwide explosion of misery as unemployment overtook foreclosures as the dominant misfortune of this recession.
--Places with technology-based economies were recession-proof for a while but aren't now. --Places with large numbers of government jobs -- state capitals, university towns, communities with concentrations of hospitals -- remain fairly recession-proof. These are places like Columbia, Mo.; Madison, Wis.; the Raleigh, N.C., area; and Athens, Ga.
--State government is not hurting that much -- at least, not yet.
--The regions we look to for our traditional sources of energy, for our coal and oil -- Wyoming, West Virginia and the like -- have generally not been hit as hard.
--While bankruptcy declarations are happening everywhere, they tend to be higher in the South because of such things as low wages, state laws that give power to creditors and a culture that's more familiar with the bankruptcy option.
--Among counties with 25,000-plus residents, no place has been hit harder than Elkhart County, Ind., and that 15 of the 20 American counties hit hardest by the recession in the past year are in six states -- Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.