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Another tough year for the economy
With 2012 barely under way, many small business owners in Colusa County are tightening their wallets and preparing for another year of struggles.
Despite positive news that employers across the nation added 200,000 jobs last month and the national unemployment rate falling to 8.5 percent — its lowest level in almost three years — many are anticipating an economy that is more or less the same since the recession began.
The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show Colusa County's unemployment rate sitting at 19.7 percent. The number is slightly down from January of last year, but still very high compared to the national unemployment rate.
Micky Bouch, the owner of 99 Cents and More in Arbuckle, said that high unemployment in the area has contributed to decreases in his sales for the last few years. Bouch, 54, has owned the business for seven years.
"We are in a rural area and all we've seen here is decrease after decrease," Bouch said. "If the government has created some jobs, we haven't seen it here. It has just been a constant decline. It's getting scary."
Bouch said his numbers are about 10 percent down from 2011. And he doesn't see them getting any better any time soon.
"If you want to destroy a building, it's very easy to destroy. But if you want to build it back, it's going to take time. It's as simple as that. It's going to take time for the economy to come back," Bouch said.
Exactly how long it will take is still a mystery to many economists. December was the sixth consecutive month of a net gain of more than 100,000 jobs being created. But its still not enough to restore employment to prerecession levels.
Picket Fences Antique Store owner and Colusa City Councilwoman Kay Hosmer said the glass may be half full for some, but each year a little more is evaporating for her.
"It's been a constant decrease every year," Hosmer said. "Every Christmas we've stayed open. This year, we didn't have one person step in the store."
Hosmer said she believes part of the reason her business is suffering is because people are looking to save money and electing not to shop locally, instead choosing to shop at a big-box retailer to buy in bulk.
"I do everything I can to encourage people to shop locally," Hosmer said. "I do a lot of advertising and reaching out the community, but I rarely see anyone come in from that."
Williams Hardware store owner George Green, 56, said he feels if his store can just break even in 2012, he will consider it a triumph. Green said hardware stores nationwide have seen a 40 percent decrease since 2008 despite costs going up. His store has seen a 35 percent decrease since the recession began.
"We're planning on just holding our own," Green said.
Green said his employees will be concentrating on customer service and keeping the prices low. But whether or not that will help him repeat 2011's numbers is anybody's guess.
"We're trying to do the best job we can, but we'll be doing great if we can just do what we did last year."