Karina Barriga Albring

News Editor 

 

“Because of economics, I am still engaged instead of married. My fiancé and I cannot afford a wedding,” Annie Moore, a 35-year-old worker, said.

Entering the third month of 2013, the illusion of a shiny new year has been stored on the shelf and no longer provides motivation for many citizens of Keene, N.H.

Many Keene residents expressed concern about unemployment and said the economic future seems uncertain.

photo illustration by emily fedorko / photo editor

photo illustration by emily fedorko / photo editor

According to a random survey conducted in Keene, N.H., 85 percent of the consulted citizens identified economy as a top issue currently facing the United States. Half of the 20 surveyed individuals referred to unemployment as a major concern.

“The economy doesn’t seem to be recovering as it should. In the past few years, I have learned to be more aware that every penny you earn counts,” Aryana O’Connor, a food service employee from Keene, said.  O’Connor mentioned that, “It is certainly harder to buy things. You have to learn to manage your money.”

Like her, 75 percent of the people consulted said they had modified their lifestyle in order to reduce costs.

Gordon Davis, an entrepreneur from Swanzey, N.H. explained these ‘cuts’ have had strong effects. “If there is less money out there, it slows down the economy and affects society as a whole. If I need to spend less money, then I don’t go out to eat and the restaurant loses a client and the waitress doesn’t get the tip. It’s a cycle that doesn’t end,” Davis said.

For O’Connor, an hour at work means at least $7.25, the federal minimum wage. New Hampshire’s minimum wage relies on the federal minimum wage and is the lowest of the six New England states.

A 19-year-old cashier, Robin Drewling said minimum wage is one of his main concerns. “Minimum wage in New Hampshire hasn’t gone up since I started working, but the price of gas has gone up since I started driving, and those two happened pretty much at the same time,” Drewling noted.

Like Drewling, almost two-thirds of the surveyed population said they have detected increases in the price of gasoline.

All of the 20 surveyed people said they couldn’t mention any living expense that has decreased in the past three to four years. They all agreed that they spend less money because they have made cuts in entertainment and leisure activities they can no longer afford.

Megan Breen, an employee at a cafeteria in Keene, said, “Minimum wage is quite low and it is not that you get any extra hours in your job so you don’t make enough money to make a living.”

New Hampshire House of Representatives Democrats have sponsored several bills to raise minimum wage.

According to Associated Press, a bill sponsored by Democrats Charles Weed, of Keene; Kenneth Ward, of Rollinsford; Peter Sullivan, of Manchester; Paul Berch, of Westmoreland; and Larry Phillips, of Keene, which proposed setting the state minimum wage at $8.25, a dollar higher than federal minimum wage, was rejected last week.

However, a bill that would reinstate New Hampshire’s minimum wage passed through the House of Representatives. According to the Union Leader, Rep. Sally Kelly (D), said the bill would be “re-establishing New Hampshire’s authority to set its own minimum wage.”

The bill will next be discussed in a Senate committee hearing.

While President Obama tries to get the Senate and the House to pass legislation to increase federal minimum wage to $9 and the House of Representatives in N.H. analyzes bills that intend to increase minimum wage, some parties consider unemployment a tougher issue.

Chelsea Pratt, a saleswoman, said, “Currently many people need jobs and the government is apparently not doing enough to fulfill this need.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the U.S went from 7.8 percent in December 2012 to 7.9 percent in January 2013.  But in Cheshire County the rate is much lower.  By the end of 2012, the unemployment rate in Cheshire County was at 5.3 percent, stated the New Hampshire Employment Security website.

“Not being able to find a job in the field I studied for is how recession has affected me. It is frustrating to see how limited the job options are nowadays,” 25-year-old Jessica Correia said.

Similarly, 23-year-old Kristen Brittain said the economy is affecting her because it is “very hard to find job, even when you have a college degree,” Brittain said, “I am currently living with my parents because I couldn’t afford anything else. I honestly don’t see economic issues getting any better in the near future.”

Among the surveyed population, 80 percent said they had neither an optimistic nor a pessimistic, but a ‘neutral’ view regarding their personal economic future.

Also, 65 percent referred to their personal economic future as “uncertain” or “unpredictable.”

Mike Torska, a store manager in Keene, said, “You can’t predict much. You just have to sit and wait to see what happens.”

Breen said, “The future seems very uncertain, but with what has happened in the past years, you can never trust things to go too well.”

 

Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at kbarriga@keene-equinox.com