Valentine's Day has created high expectations between couples and with that markets for things like chocolate and roses from South America. Now, with unemployment rising, even expressions of love between Valentines are taking a hit. Roubini Global Economics reported last year on February 14th that cocoa futures rose $57 but prices could go either way. The west African coast, where 70% of cocoa is grown has been experiencing labor strikes and low rainfall, two factors that along with the rising costs of sugar and lower consumer demand present a variable picture for chocolate, the number one feature of every modern Valentine's Day in the U.S. and the U.K. Even in these countries, chocolate is not considered a staple food like rice or wheat, according to Roubini (RGI).In a job loss environment, chocolate purchases at the consumer level will be stressed. Unemployment is sure to be a huge factor in the ability of sweethearts to express their love with expensive gifts as before. Large metropolitan areas are experiencing job loss in numbers neither expected nor part of city history for decades. New York City is expected to lose 181,000 jobs. Los Angeles will lose 164,000 jobs, according to the Huffington Report. Unemployment in general is rapidly moving toward or has topped 10%. This is the highest unemployment rate since the early 1980s.
The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal estimates Minneapolis job loss at 42,800 for the year 2007-2008. That number is will rise in 2009 as it combines with very tight credit. Buying a house or a car or even getting a new credit card have all gone into categories few consumers and small businesses will be able to negotiate.
Meanwhile the U.S. House Financial Services committee is heavily criticizing the new Obama administration about not making clear its plans for the financial recovery. It's somewhat disingenuous because the committee is responsible for overseeing the same financial sector, including moving reforms through the Congress. However its chairman Rep. Barney Franks is taking aim at the financial industry to work harder to fix a failing system, according to the Associated Press.
The nation is being badly shaken by the crash in the housing market. Job loss in the construction area is deeply affecting households where males are the breadwinners. The somber news just keeps coming as all Americans have to take a deep breath and make plans for the future.
Valentine's Day is coming at an inopportune time. Back in the mid 1800s it was observed by the exchange of cards. Now is a good time to return to that practice and lower our expectations of high consumerism. Make a small donation to the nonprofit of your choice instead.
Laura Waterman Wittstock is president and CEO of Wittstock & Associates. The firm provides consultation in new projects, creative, development, assessment/evaluation, and governance. Read more about Laura Waterman Wittstock
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