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Shiffler: Unemployment is biggest issue
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     Several months ago before the economy lurched into a legitimate free fall, I interviewed Dr. Ron Shiffler, dean of the Colleges of Business Administration and Information Technology at Georgia Southern University to get his opinion on the state of our economy at that time.
      Shiffler said that we were indeed in a recession - regardless of what the pundits were saying - and that the government was going to have to play an important role in staving off what could be "dark" economic times. Shiffler appears to have been "right on the money," so to speak. I thought it would be interesting to visit with him six months later to get his take on where our economy stands today.
      "I don't think our future is quite as rosy as our government officials are telling us," he said. "My background is in statistics, so I am a numbers guy, and there are a couple of numbers that I always look at."
      Shiffler said he follows the quarterly earnings reports issued by public companies as well as the price of commodities.
      "On the technical side, good earnings and sustained increases in commodity prices are signs to me that tell us the worst is over," he said. "In my opinion, it will be a few, if not several quarters, before we see consistency in good earnings reports. Further, we are seeing some up tick in commodities prices, but that needs to be sustained, and that will take time to bear out."
      Shiffler said what we need to remember is the significant unemployment rate that our country is facing.
      "We have a national unemployment rate pushing 10 percent. Unemployment is touching everyone. Members of my own immediate family are unemployed and are struggling. It's everywhere, and right now, I am not hearing much happening about significant job creation. If people aren't working, they aren't spending. If they aren't spending, the way our economy is structured results in stagnation."
      There has been much said, a great deal of it negative, about the United States government's deep financial involvement in the private sector.
      "I will be honest, I am concerned about the government's involvement in private enterprise," he said. "But frankly, I am happy that something was done. Something had to be done. I don't know that we had any choice. Maybe right now, it's exactly what we need. I think many would agree, as opposed to two or three months ago, that doomsday isn't around the corner right this minute. If the government hadn't stepped in, who is to say, maybe it would have been."
      Does Shiffler believe that our community banks are still our local "heroes"? "Definitely yes! Despite smaller margins and larger write-offs, our community banks are weathering the storm thanks to good leadership and decisions by their boards."

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