How Is The Economy REALLY Doing In Neighborhoods Around America?

dumbo manhattan bridge

Photo: Environmental Protection Agency

Recently we asked our readers if things were getting better or worse in their local economy.Tons of people sent in replies, and as expected there was a wide variation.

Several wrote detailed reports from North Carolina about a worsening housing market. Responses from the West Coast were mixed, with “new construction going up like crazy” in Los Angeles but “businesses pulling way back” in Seattle.

People agreed that the rich and the employed were fine, but the poor and the unemployed were getting desperate.

We rounded up the best comments, edited for clarity. Please feel free to leave additional comments below.

BURLINGTON, NC: Stagnant and getting worse

WILMINGTON, NC: Lots of underwater mortgages

I have only three neighbours. One auctioned off his house and had to come up with extra cash to pay off his mortgage.

Another neighbour, an architect of national repute, walked away from his house and his $1.1 million dollar mortgage.

My third neighbour, who inherited his wealth, stopped paying on his $1.9 million dollar mortgage over a year ago.

A wealthy family member cosigned on his mortgage, and will be hit with a monster deficiency judgment. That neighbour will stay in his house until he is forced out. The local bank is in no great hurry to piss off his family.

black swan on Sep 25, 7:11 PM

CHARLOTTE: NC: Empty homes and stalled construction

Here in the Charlotte area, what still stands out to me is the residential construction. There are hundreds of new neighborhoods that started in the boom time and they're still sitting there just like they were 3 or 4 years ago. Sometimes there's only one or two homes in them surrounded by tens/hundreds empty lots.

I drive by many homes that are empty; these are existing homes, not new construction. They're for sale, and they've been for sale for years now.

Real estate in this area just seems to be stopped in time with no sign of progress.

Charlotte NC on Sep 26, 1:41 PM

SEATTLE, WASH: Feels like a double dip

Seattle, WA USA.

Like most places, if you have a job things are OK.

If you don't, it's a horror show of debt, loss of home and property.

No doubt the perception of double-dip recession is here with households and businesses pulling way back, making perception reality.

Not sure why the sheeple have blandly accepted very high fuel costs as normal, nobody even talks about it and premium gas is $4.16 here.

Yes, I do blame Team Obama for focusing on fulfilling the democrat wet dream without regard to the devastation it's bringing.

Yes, I do blame Team Obama on Sep 25, 10:10 AM

LOS ANGELES, CALIF: No recession here

My husband, MIL and I just had this conversation a few days ago. If you only had Redondo Beach to go by, you'd scratch your head in wonderment as to why everyone's saying we're in a recession. Mall parking lots are full, it's hard to find a table at many restaurants, new construction is going up like crazy. Two new businesses opened recently within walking distance of our house; a wine bar and a hair salon.

I'm grateful, but I wish it were the same everywhere.

Jill Klausen on Sep 25, 1:27 PM

NEW YORK: Everything's peachy in a super wealthy suburb

I live in a wealthy suburb of New York City about exactly one hour from New York City. (central New Jersey)

Everything is peachy here, but a lot of people who live here are super wealthy (wall street types, lawyers, doctors, etc).

Over the past year I spent time in the PNW and South the PNW, I've never witnessed so many homeless people in my life. Things are bad up there unless you live in Seattle.

Texas wasn't as bad but still bad compared to here.

Things are only going to get worse unless hiring does a big turn around and jobs come back.

Stevex on Sep 25, 11:15 AM

SPRING, TEXAS: Fewer people on the golf course

Business is humming along (petroleum engineering consultant). Chinese are major clients now and foreign oil companies and Governments have pretty much replaced US clients with exception of US companies involved in shale oil / gas.

neighbourhood is very affluent but we do see some people struggling to pay their bills but a new crop of Audis / BMWs / Lexus / Mercedes did show up this year at the park and ride. Fewer golfers on the course behind us and we have had our second house on the market for 5 months now with only one offer that was subsequently pulled. Many houses that were foreclosed and empty back in 2009-10 are filling up now at about 10-15% discounts to bubble prices. Crime is low for now but does exist - no section 8s here and as development is owned primarily by JP Morgan so it should stay that way for a while.

All in all if you are in the high end service sector things are OK but not as good as in 2007 but last year was my best year on record for client fees. If you are middle class well from what I have seen and help other companies plan then in the long run you are screwed big time.

Roger D on Sep 25, 1:59 PM

NEW LONDON, CT: Things are looking pretty shabby

In New London, CT Pfizer who got the state to tear down a massive area of middle class housing so they could build their world headquarters and operate there for 10 years tax free, moved out when the tax exemption expired at the end of the decade leaving a note to citizens of New London that read:

Instead of employing locals they imported cheap Indian technicians from India under some government visa scheme.

Things are looking pretty shabby around town and we lost all that viable housing in the process. Watch out for your government. In this case it was the State of Connecticut who screwed us.

The Other Side on Sep 25, 10:31 AM

BROOKLYN, NY: Crime is picking up a bit

Interviewed candidates for an entry level compliance job. Most candidates had 20 plus years of trading experience, and worked in how many kids they have into the interview. It was hard to witness their desperation.

In Brooklyn, crime is picking up a bit. More clueless 22 year olds wearing earphones in bad neighborhoods getting jacked up. A few scary sexual assaults. Some roving bands of teenagers wrecking havoc. What is strange is the 'luxury' condos with rich post-college pre-marriage upper class in the edge neighborhoods that seem to be back-sliding.

The city's just a shot away.

I'm doing a little more apocalypse prep than usual. I've got family upstate, and have supplies, gear, and know how for a 10 day hike.

take em on Sep 25, 9:30 AM

TEXAS: Worried about food inflation

We are in our early 50's and suddenly know many friends (our age) that are unable to find a job or have to settle for much less in pay. Also noticed that food prices in South Texas have risen dramatically in the last 6 months or so. Just yesterday I bought a cup of yogurt for $.66 that was .50 in May (32% increase).

We are learning to cook more from scratch instead of going out. Have you noticed a drop in the restaurant clients in your area? It would be nice to have someone from the restaurant business comment.

We are stocking up on food storage to prepare for what is surely to come.

Melissa on Sep 25, 12:47 PM

SAN DIEGO, CALIF: Lots of empty storefronts

KNOXVILLE, TENN: Everyone looks unhappy and worn down

Here in one of Knoxville, TN's better neighborhoods, there has been a rash of thefts of water valves. This is a very safe neighbourhood and the theft is just bizarre Otherwise, wherever one goes around town, people just look very unhappy and worn down, regardless of economic status.

Laocoon on Sep 25, 2:50 PM

VIRGINIA: Military spending is the only thing keeping one town afloat

My neighbourhood has not had any break ins and foreclosures have stopped. My city has a lot of military folks who are buying houses, and if they have to sell because they are assigned to another base, well the VA helps them with mortgage payments and with selling the house.

Honestly, if it wasn't for the military industrial complex, my cow town would be the basket case it deserves to be. We are very dependent on the military. Not a good long term solution, because even the government will be a basket case soon enough.

In my field, things are looking grim. One of the hospital systems in my cow town has once again gone on a hiring freeze. Currently, this hospital system is city owned and the city is looking to sell it to a bigger system, for profit or non profit. The city is desperate to get this albatross off their neck because it is losing money. This hospital provides a lot of care for the poor and for Tricare holders, and with healthcare costs being the way they are now, the hospital loses a lot of money. The hiring freeze is better than layoffs, but if the hospital is not sold, then I don't know what will happen.

Virginia Plain on Sep 25, 9:21 AM

LOUISIANA: Food inflation and discrimination against the long-term unemployment

First time ever theft of AC compressor from residential neighbourhood. Commercial lease rotation continuing from older units to newer resulting in some slight increases of commercial vacancies. Apartments and single family rentals stable or increasing rents. Continued increases in basic foodstuffs. Pasta up 40% year over year for example. Employers hiring essential personnel from those already employed instead of unemployed is troubling but lucrative for those lucky enough to already have a job.

jimmy mactheknife on Sep 25, 9:48 AM

OHIO: Signs of growing inequality

I'm head cashier at a top three home improvement store in which I noticed something peculiar, where one day there is very low traffic levels and people buy safes and gun racks. The next day there is a huge out of control surge in traffic where people buy enormous unnecessary household goods like $ 200 dollar mixers and TV's along with construction materials. Very odd consumer behaviour. It really helps me visualise the level of inequality here in the Midwest.

headcashier on Sep 25, 8:36 AM

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: You know the economy sucks when...

Here in Atlanta, recently a 'hair extensions' shop was robbed. 10K plus in hair was stolen, and the cash register was not even touched. I think that when the value of hair is more than actual cash in the mind of a robber... the economy is in pretty bad shape.

William Wood on Sep 25, 9:05 AM

BROOKLYN, NY: High unemployment, but the bars are doing fine

My neighbourhood? Ha.

My neighbourhood in Williamsburg is doing ok sort of... Just kidding. Tons of people don't have work where I live and I'm sure that rent is getting hard to pay. I know that the local bars are fine because a lot of us still use them a lot.

Everybody is so fed up with Wall Street. That's where you should point the finger. Trust me.

Get out here and make your voice heard! Shut down Wall Street completely and make the banks go away forever!

OccupyWallStreet on Sep 26, 12:43 PM

MINNESOTA: Good in some areas, bad in others

Jonathan Alberg said: Central Minnesota. I have noticed no slowdown in business here. Of course, Minnesota seemed to get by the 2008/2009 recession fairly unscathed, too.

outtahere said: A friend of mine works for FedEx in the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities and he says the same -- he's seen no sign of a slowdown over the past two years. They've had to add drivers.

5thdragontemple said: Interesting. Where i live in MN business is slow. Lucky if we can get a 40 hour work week. The ying/yang thing i guess. The Minnesota that i know is not booming. Matter of what area i guess

BONUS: In Sweden things are going well

I live in Sweden, and I am a student but things are going well for us.

We have unemployment at about 6.6 % which is decent, but baked into that is a very large amount of recent immigrants from Somalia and Iraq. We now have structural unemployment among these groups as they've discovered the wonders of the welfare state(and I don't blame them, the work that awaits them is the lowest-rung in society and they usually don't earn much less than by going on benefits and having loads of kids.).

So, because of that, there's a lull of safety among many of my peers. There's no big stress that we feel, we're outside the Eurozone(even if we understand that if Eurozone goes down, we go down too).

Sweden managed the last crisis in 2008 with a lower national debt after the crisis than before it, so we - or at least those that I know - feel relatively confident.

Also, I am going to one of the top universities in Sweden doing a chemistry-heavy undergrad so my work prospects are decent. 95 % of all graduates got a job (within their chosen field) within a month of graduation over the last 10 years. So I'm not too worried as of this moment.

But I expect things to get worse as the decade moves on. In my ways, the bubble in Sweden is an illusion. I just want to enjoy free healthcare, free higher education and so forth while I can and this country can still afford it! And I'll probably get out of university in time to graduate without debt. My sister's already in Switzerland and telling me to come over. It's either that or Canada for me, and many of my peers are thinking about moving too. Some are going to Asia and working in Singapore/Hong Kong.

As for degeneration.. not really seeing it that much. Sure there are ghettos, but that's the case everywhere these days. But they are limited and sealed in many ways. In my personal sphere, there is not a lot of it. But the wider social context is changing. Anti-immigrant parties on the rise everywhere in Europe.
History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.

The View From Europe on Sep 25, 10:35 AM

What else can tell us how the economy is doing?

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at