Our landscape, though painted with fall beauty, is both tainted by swaths of joblessness and blessed by small shoots of job growth. The message is distinct: Be happy for what's gained, but don't misinterpret the depths of the area's unemployment.
In other words, don't believe the recession or its effects are is in our past.
Granted, last week birthed more good news than bad on the job front. Faint sighs of relief were heard when General Dynamics announced it would hire as many as 100 workers at the Anniston Army Depot, one of Calhoun County's most vital economic engines. Likewise, news that a Birmingham firm, Ultraliner Technologies, would move its production from that city to Oxford — bringing 30 jobs with it — warranted front-page treatment.
Those brief respites from recession gloom appeared to extend to sporadic parts of the state, as well. Even the Mercedes plant in Vance has scheduled a return to a five-day work week in December.
But those Wall Street economists, should they venture south, would see the shadowy side of this two-sided story.
They'd see the 100 jobs soon to be taken from Lincoln when the Harley-Davidson test facility moves west.
They'd see the large job losses in Wadley and Sylacauga, where plant closures have wreaked havoc with those towns' unemployment rates.
They'd see that Calhoun County's unemployment rate earlier this month held steady — and painfully — at 10.8 percent. If they dialed down, they'd see that Anniston's jobless rate is much worse at 13.1 percent.
What's more, they'd see that Alabama is neither Michigan nor Nevada, the U.S. leaders in unemployment, but it does reside with them on the top-10 list for joblessness. Alabama's unemployment rate, at 10.7 percent in September, is at its highest point in almost 25 years and has nearly doubled in the last 12 months. Neither federal stimulus spending nor Goat Hill maneuverings have kept Alabama's rise from being the third highest in the nation, government statistics show.
Try as Alabamians might, the ramifications of the state's continued joblessness can't be discounted. "(Being on the top-10 list) has a dampening effect on morale," Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, told the Associated Press.
Here at home, northeast Alabamians yearn for more of what they gladly received last week, for news that doesn't carry another gut punch. Even if it's in drips and drabs, they ache for signs of recovery, for more job creation and less job removal.
Yes, this lovely part of America knows the recession well, and it can see a faint vision of recovery. But it still seems far, far away.