Elkhart, Ind., Mayor Dick Moore blasted a Sunday New York Times story depicting the city and county as the “white-hot center of the meltdown of the American economy.”
The South Bend Tribune reported that the Times cited labor statistics that say the jobless rate in Elkhart County increased more than any other metropolitan area in the country from August 2007 to August 2008. According to the statistics, the jobless rate increased 4.8% during that time to rise to its current level of 9.3%.
Moore said the feature was one-sided, and the reporter did not talk to anyone in city or county government.
“They painted it much worse than it really is,” Moore said. “We regret that the newspaper is sold around the world, and they would carry an article so poorly written.”
The Times focused its story on talking to people — some of whom were lining up outside the unemployment office — that have recently lost jobs, mostly in the RV manufacturing industry, and the struggles they endure to get by.
Moore said the local economy has taken a hit in recent months, and with the rise in fuel prices and the fall in the market, the RV industry has struggled. Thousands of people have lost their jobs in the county this year, including 1,400 employees of Monaco Coach back in July.
“If the New York Times would have been here for the (city’s) 150th birthday (last month), they would have seen a city with a great attitude — a positive attitude looking forward to the future,” he said. “We’ll definitely rebound and continue to try and diversify and find industry not strictly associated with the mobile home and RV industry. At the same time, we want to bring that back.”
Many residents in Elkhart have felt the crunch lately one way or another, whether it be a family member or friend that has lost a job.
Caliph Shaquel, 43, an author, said nine of his family members who all worked in the RV industry have been laid off in recent months.
“Most of them are out there looking for jobs, and they’re not having any luck,” he said. “At least the jobs they’re coming across don’t pay much. Why should you have to work at McDonald’s when you have a master’s degree? It defeats the purpose of having paid all those student loans.”