Hard Times by the Numbers

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Hey, have you heard? Times is tough. And there's nothing like fresh new numbers to fill you with the tangy taste of despair. So here we go! First up: unemployment. The number of people filing for unemployment benefits last week jumped by 12,000 to hit the magic number of 500,000, a figure not seen since late last year. As fears of a double-dip recession and deflation continue, employers are clearly still hunkering down for the long haul and cutting costs.

Batting second in the lineup: home sales. According to the Oakland Tribune, a new report indicates that home sales around the Bay Area in July dropped a substantial 20 percent compared with this time last year, as the federal homebuying tax credit expired. The credit was meant to temporarily boost the housing market until the economy could recover, but its sun has set, and we're still nowhere near the end of the tough times. The Bay Area's media housing price is a tepid $402,000, which makes buying a home in one of the most desirable areas in the country a pretty sweet deal. And yet no one's pulling the trigger, which means consumer confidence and purchasing power is in deep trouble.

Remember, folks: there are still a lot of adjustable rate mortgages that haven't yet gone kablooie. But more and more of them do every month, and we get a fresh round of foreclosures and abandoned homes. So break out your Carter Family records and keep on the sunny side; we've got a lot more pain to endure.

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