Hard times

January 17, 1991

The regional economic slowdown and the national recession are hitting Baltimore hard. In the past week alone, 1,200 employees were laid off at Westinghouse after the Defense Department canceled the Navy's A-12 attack aircraft program. The state's $423 million deficit has forced cuts in aid to the city that resulted in the loss of 60 jobs Tuesday and yesterday 360 employees of the troubled USF&G were dismissed.

The layoffs run the economic gamut, from blue-collar workers to mid-level managers. This makes the 1991 recession different from recent economic downturns.

The situation is made worse by the highest inflation rate in nearly a decade. Yesterday, the government reported that inflation for all of 1990 hit 6.1 percent -- the steepest rise in the cost of living since 1981. For those men and women who have been laid off, that's a double whammy.

Moreover, the social safety net that traditionally has cushioned the impact of recession is in tatters as a result of huge state deficits generated by Reagan-era federalism and a decrease in revenues due to the recession.

Even financial experts cannot predict how long this downturn will last or how severe it will become before economic prospects improve. This sober financial outlook calls for greater commitment than ever on the part of state and local government to make human needs a priority when budgets are drawn up this winter.

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