American Morning

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March 12th, 2009
08:00 AM ET

Minding Your Business

You know the Sesame Street song: "Can you tell me how to get... how to get to the UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE?"

First Wall Street, then Main Street, now Sesame Street. The children's tv icon will lay off 20 percent of its workers - 67 people - and the pain will be shared across all departments. The week has brought job cuts not only for children's television, but also United Technologies, McClatchy newspapers, 616 lawyers at two major law firms (yes, inviting all sorts of tasteless lawyer jokes) and Dell confirms it is cutting positions worldwide but won't say how many or where. (Why the mystery, Dell?)

Government data show four states now have unemployment rates topping 10 percent. Long-suffering Michigan tops the list with an incredible 11.6 percent. Many economists expect these numbers to keep rising. Here's the bright spot for the morning: A little more than a dozen states have jobless rates 6 percent or less (WY, ND, IA,UT, OK to name a few) and Texas' jobless rate is 6.4 percent, much better than the 8.1 percent average for the rest of the country. If you are living in any of these places, we can only hope that you're feeling a little better about things than the national statistics suggest.

We are in a "negative feedback" loop. The housing crash started this whole thing. Now companies are caught by the recession and cutting jobs. And that job loss is feeding more foreclosures. February foreclosures, according to RealtyTrac, rose 30 percent compared with a year ago and 6 percent from January, something the CEO of the company says was surprising. Why?

"The increase in foreclosure activity from January to February is somewhat surprising, given that many of the foreclosure prevention efforts and moratoria in place in January were extended through most of February, as well," said James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac.

Translation: Foreclosures are rising despite everything that has been tried to slow them down.

As job loss mounts, it will be even more difficult to break the cycle of foreclosures.

It can't be said enough: the vast majority of you have your jobs and are paying your mortgage on time. This is not the time to take risks with either. A couple good pieces of advice my sources gave me this week.

1) Protect your cash. Don't pay the extra mortgage payment this year, if you are paying the monthly check 13 times a year. Save that money in a liquid bank account so you have it on hand for a job loss. (You should have 6 months of your living expenses in a rainy day fund.)

2) Now is the time for face time at work. In many cases, the job cuts are simply across-the-board. But in other cases, a committee of bosses are poring over a list of names and cutting the weaker performers or the people whose track record they are not familiar with. Face time at the office is key. You want those bosses to pause before checking your name on that list.

Filed under: Economy • Minding Your Business
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