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The collapse of some of the nation's biggest financial institutions, the wild swings in the stock market, the mortgage crisis, the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street make the economy the year's hottest story, not to mention the hardest to grasp. On this page, we'll do our best to help you make sense of it.


March 2:Unemployment vs. temporary work
In tough times, working a temp job or picking up other regular work was logical, helping assure some cash comes in. But as companies cut back on these positions, many job seekers are finding that it pays better to collect unemployment.

March 1:More jobless claiming unemployment benefits
Some out-of-work residents are finding that it pays better to collect unemployment benefits than to take a temporary job or a low-paying, entry-level position.

February 26:South Shore hair business is down, but not out
Skip the foils. Forget the lowlights. Just cover the gray roots. Hairdressers are hearing more of those instructions lately. Recession or not, hair salon clients regard a cut and color as a necessity. But hairdressers say customers are cutting back on the extras and stretching the time between appointments.

February 17:Amid souring economy, vacationers still sticking closer to home
The economic slump has prompted some parents to forgo expensive vacations and place their children in local camps and vacation programs instead. Local organizations from public libraries to museums and community centers are jumping at the opportunity to interest locals in their vacation week programming.

February 16:Declining lottery sales have local communities scratching for cash
Mayor Joseph Sullivan says the lottery is “the oxygen for municipalities.” But the recession is causing a decline in sales, which means already cash-starved communities will be receiving less lottery money.

February 14:No longer recession-proof, lottery is losing sales
Unlike in most economic downturns when people take a chance on winning big in the lottery, the depth of the current recession has resulted a decline in Massachusetts Lottery sales. Lottery sales are projected to be down close to 5 percent this year when compared to last year. (Click on the headline to open the story and take our poll.)

February 14:Recession forces people to give up pets
Sandra Morse, director of the Quincy Animal Shelter, estimates the shelter has taken in 10 percent more animals this year than last because of the poor economy.

February 12:Florists try to revive wilting sales
The days leading up to Valentine’s Day typically send florists into overdrive, with hundreds of flowers to be transformed into dozens of arrangements, and all delivered by the big day. But a sales slump that started last year has florists wondering if this year’s Valentine’s Day will be more doom than bloom.

February 12:High-end flower market is feeling the pinch
Like others in the industry, florist Bob Coggins said he is feeling the recession’s full force this week. Saturday, Valentine’s Day, should be one of the biggest sales day of the year for a florist; orders so far have been slow.

February 12:Weymouth florist finds in a slow economy, he must be creative
John Luchini, owner of Bra-Wey Florist in Weymouth, said florists are taking a hit on less traditional floral arrangement sales. He’s started to offer customers inexpensive alternatives, such as a simple bouquet of cut tulips instead of a pricey arrangement.

February 7:Savvy shoppers find ways to lower grocery bills
Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, says more people are buying down, shopping for value and using coupons.

February 5:Disability advocates rally today against millions more in cuts
Up to 300 people are expected to rally today at the State House to protest proposed funding cuts that would leave thousands of adults and children with disabilities without support services or jobs.

February 4:State colleges tightening their belts
Bridgewater State College and Massasoit Community College are among the state schools trying to reduce costs in anticipation of major budget cuts.

February 4:Experts: Don't expect any stimulus to immediately jumpstart economy
The federal government isn’t standing still, as it crafts a “stimulus” bill aimed at jumpstarting the economy. But will tax cuts and infrastructure spending revitalize the South Shore and elsewhere and, if so, when? No one knows for sure, although most everyone cedes that drastic action is necessary.

February 2:Times are tough in construction, but region may be poised for rapid recovery
Nationwide, more than 100,000 construction jobs were lost in December. The industry shed about 900,000 jobs since its 2006 employment peak, according to the federal government industry census statistics. The Northeast is seeing similar trends.

January 31:Face of homelessness changing; chronic homelessness drops
More individuals and families are being housed in emergency shelters and motels, but Quincy and Weymouth have seen a 23 percent decrease in chronic homeless. Chronic homeless shelter users are being replaced by people like Scott, 41, who is jobless and without a car. He has spent the past two months at Father Bill’s Place in Quincy while he looks for work.

January 29:Patrick proposing taxes to soften the blow of state aid cuts to cities and towns
As the state gears up for a long debate on the 2010 budget, the budget year that begins July 1, South Shore cities and towns must immediately make tough decisions to address the local aid cuts.

January 29:STRETCHING A DOLLAR: As recession deepens, discount stores draw wider range of customers
Until a few months ago, Karen Smith seldom visited discount stores. She has a steady job as a restaurant server, and her husband is in the Coast Guard. She didn’t feel they needed to. Until now.

January 7:Employers' confidence falls to lowest point in 17-year history of poll
Associated Industries of Massachusetts reports that employers’ confidence have fallen to the lowest point in the 17-year-history of the association’s monthly confidence poll.

January 7:Homeless shelters in Quincy, Brockton overflowing
The recession and winter are packing a two-fisted punch at homeless shelters in Quincy and Brockton. There are overflow crowds most nights and more families and former renters are among the guests.

January 7:OUR OPINION: Finding the balance in the economy
We are not all in the same boat, rising and falling equally on the waves of economic fortune. Nor is the economy a pendulum, swinging back and forth between poverty and prosperity for all.

January 6:Door closes to most frail elders needing home care help
South Shore Elder Services in Braintree and old Colony Elder Services in Brockton are placing frail elders who need home care services on a wait list, due to state budget cuts. The elders have relied on the help to stay in their homes rather than go to nursing homes.

January 3:Local experts predict that economic problems will continue through 2009
Members of The Patriot Ledger’s economic advisory panel recently shared their predictions for the local and national economies in 2009. Most of our local experts see continued problems in the employment and real estate markets

December 20:More elderly seeking help with food, fuel costs
People 55 and older are being squeezed on all sides by the high cost of living. They often find themselves spending most of their incomes on food, fuel and prescription drugs. Applications for food stamps, fuel assisance and food from food pantries are way up statewide. Locally, Brockton and Quincy residents are leading the way in seeking help.

December 19:Economic panel: With hard work, opportunities still out there for job-seekers
If you’re without a job and full of fear about the future, it’s not much consolation to know that you’re not alone. Members of the Patriot Ledger’s “economic advisory panel” say that getting work can be hard work, and now more than ever. But they say opportunities are still out there, for those with the right skills, attitude and experience.

December 16:OUR OPINION: An obligation to work with the unemployed
No one needs to forfeit their dignity in filing for unemployment, money their employers paid to the state through a mandate to ensure they would be taken care of if the need arises.

December 13:Swamped unemployment offices have to turn away some applicants
An agent at the walk-in unemployment office in Quincy Center said the long lines are only getting worse. On one day, the office opened the doors 30 minutes early and 36 people were already waiting outside.

December 13:Home values down, but property taxes are up
Many homeowners mistakenly believe that property tax bills should go down when house values drop, but assessors on the South Shore say government spending, not the fluctuation in home values, determines what you pay.

December 12:Weymouth family heartened by neighborhood's spirit in the wake of foreclosure
Eddie Mallard’s family fell on hard times, with their house foreclosed upon due to sickness and other struggles. But members, the Ralph Talbot Primary School in Weymouth – from its principal to its receptionist to its students – have rallied around Eddie, a bright-eyed and inquisitive autistic boy with a gift for memorizing numbers and addresses.

December 10:Competition is fierce for seasonal jobs
Retailers are reporting fierce competition for seasonal jobs as laid-off workers seek temporary employment. Unfortunately for job applicants, the supply of seasonal jobs is at its lowest point in decades.

December 9:Frigid market for lobstermen
As the recession pushes catch prices to record lows, local lobstermen are packing up early.

December 8:Recession threatens to drop curtain on shows
The recession is threatening the survival of some local arts groups. The rest are keeping a wary eye on everything from ticket sales to the shows they stage.

December 8:A shellfish bounty is putting food on local tables
Call it a Mother Nature bailout. Clams and oysters abound along Duxbury’s shores amidst the worst economic decline in decades.

December 5:Tweeter's owner pulls the plug suddenly on electronics chain
Tweeter leaves employees out in the cold by shutting stores a few days before they were scheduled to close.

December 4:State Street Corp. plans hefty job cuts
The Boston financial services company says it will trim 1,600 to 1,800 jobs from its global work force, including an estimated 1,000 in Massachusetts.

December 2:Plimoth Plantation lays off longtime employees
Plimoth Plantation has laid off eight workers in a major administrative restructuring.The restructuring includes a reduction of eight non-front line positions, the creation of a new senior position designed to further develop and promote biculturalism along with the creation of a new role, Deputy Director, that will focus on the total customer experience, Executive Director John McDonagh said.

November 28:Tanking economy brings kids back to state schools
Massasoit Community College in Brockton had the largest increase in its enrollment in 10 years, Bridgewater State College’s enrollment has been growing so much during the past year that next year’s freshman class will be capped at this year’s size – 1,500 students.

November 26:Retailers under pressure ahead of Black Friday
The Friday after Thanksgiving is always an important day in the retail world. But this year it takes on added significance and retailers are feeling the heat, especially given the relative late “Black Friday” and persistent doubts about the economy’s strength this holiday season.

November 24:'Cheap has always been cool'
As the recession deepens, those still untouched keep a wary eye on the economy – and shop for bargains like never before.

November 21:Layaway is back in style
Layaway, that throwback from an era when consumers actually paid for purchases before taking them home, has been dusted off and put back out on the shelves – just in time for the holidays.

November 21:Recession brings obstacles, opportunities for small businesses
Here is some advice from The Patriot Ledger’s Economic Advisory Panel on what small businesses should be doing right now to prepare for the downturn.

November 18:Economic experts urge caution, introspection as investments tumble
The list of maladies stemming from the latest financial turmoil is extensive – headaches as once healthy nest eggs dwindle, whiplash over the stock market’s ups and (mostly) downs, and dizziness trying to figure out what to do next.

November 17:Agencies that help the needy need some help of their own
The recession has caused growing numbers of South Shore residents to seek help at food pantries and from fuel-assistance programs – and the demand is straining some programs to the breaking point.

November 15: Agencies that help the needy need some help of their own
The recession has caused growing numbers of South Shore residents to seek help at food pantries and from fuel-assistance programs – and the demand is straining some programs to the breaking point.

November 11:'Nobody knew they were poor'
Seven South Shore seniors tell their stories of what it was like during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

November 3:When times get touch, many rely on faith for hope
Ask for help and guidance, and you shall receive it. That’s a key belief for most religions. But when times get tough, a big challenge for priests, rabbis and imams is finding ways to reach those who don’t always let on they need help.

October 28:Advocates for the poor fear a tough winter
Advocates for the poor are concerned that the shaky economy, the housing crisis, and cuts in state aid to the disadvantaged will make for a tough winter for the state’s poor.

October 27:Home sales up for first time in 11 months
Home sales increased 8.5 percent last month compared with September 2007, but prices were off by 15.6 percent. The monthly increase in sales was the first since last October.

October 24:Homeowners snap up Halloween decorations even as economic fears grow
Despite the sagging economy, consumers are spending slightly more this year on Halloween than last year, said Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. Aside from candy and costumes, many homeowners are snapping up all kinds of decor for the outdoors, like faux tombstones, blow-up pumpkins, glow-in-the-dark skeletons and dangling spiders and bats.

October 23: State officials tell Delahunt more federal help needed on foreclosures
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Quincy, hosted a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Beacon Hill on Wednesday.

October 22: Delahunt calls for changes in bankruptcy court
U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt says Congress should allow bankruptcy courts to modify the terms of “predatory” loans.

October 22: The Patriot Ledger's slate of 'economic advisors' weighs in
All around the South Shore, the nation and the world, heads are spinning – trying to ride out the roller coaster that is today’s turbulent economy. To that end, the Patriot Ledger has enlisted some of the area’s best and brightest business experts. This slate of “economic advisors” will weigh in regularly on pressing issues, helping make the information we provide relevant and accessible.

October 22: Community banks provide safe harbor to consumers
Nearly all banks in Southeastern Massachusetts have very few bad loans on their books.

October 22: Boston-Quincy area's jobless rate rises
The Boston-Quincy area’s jobless rate rose to 4.8 percent in September from 4 percent a year ago, although the area remained below the state average.

October 16: Fear itself: Market meltdown, economic stress bad for your pocketbook, bad for your health
Market woes are bad for your pocketbook. Market worry can be even worse for your health.

October 16: Worries over economy spread; global markets sink
Wall Street may get a reprieve Thursday after a crucial barometer of inflation came in flat last month. A new government report suggests that consumer prices, which have marched higher for most of the year, were flat in September and dropped in August. The better-than-expected data came too late to save overseas markets, though. They slumped on rising fears that the global economy is sinking into a deep recession. Japan’s key stock index plummeted more than 11 percent.

October 15: Gov. Patrick to cut $1 billion and cut 1,000 from state workforce
Gov. Deval Patrick announced Wednesday he will eliminate 1,000 state jobs and slash more than $1 billion in spending across state government to restore a budget that has proved unsupportable just three months after passage.

October 15: Another sickening plunge on Wall Street: Dow down 733
The economy lurched deeper into the doldrums Wednesday and took the stock market down with it, sending the Dow Jones industrials to a staggering 733-point loss and erasing any hopes that the convulsions that have shaken Wall Street for a month were over.

October 14: Bush announces bank bailout details
President Bush today announced a $250 billion plan by the government to directly buy shares in the nation’s leading banks, saying the drastic steps were “not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it.”

October 14: Stocks storm back with 11% gain
Wall Street stormed back after its worst week ever and staged the biggest single-day stock rally since the Great Depression on Monday, catapulting the Dow Jones industrials to a 936-point gain and finally offering relief from eight consecutive days of stock market carnage.

October 14: Sovereign inks agreement with Spanish banking partner
The merger would finish an acquisition process that Santander started in October 2005 when it unveiled plans to buy a nearly 20-percent stake in Sovereign, which is based in Pennsylvania but run out of offices in Boston.

October 13: Stocks soar in unprecedented rally
The Dow rises more than 900 points as investors seek bargains amid the rubble of last week’s stock market meltdown and receive assurances that major governments are moving to support the global banking system.

October 13: Car shoppers seek dependability in tough economic times
Bob Hyman, sales manager at Tufankjian Toyota Scion of Braintree, says many car buyers are turning to crossover vehicles rather than SUVs.

October 10: Snowballing sell-off drives Dow briefly below 8000
President Bush is ready to make a statement to the nation about the crisis in the credit markets that has caused substantial sell-offs on Wall Street. Bush will deliver his remarks from the White House Rose Garden at 10:25 a.m. On Wall Street, a stampede of selling that began in the waning minutes of trading on Wall Street spread to Asia on Friday, deepening a financial crisis that has defied all efforts to stop it. In the first five minutes of trading today, the Dow Jones average was down 700 points early to drop briefly below the 8000 level, before bouncing back.

October 9: Fed rate cut may have relatively small impact on the local economy
Local bankers say they don’t expect a big drop in home mortgage rates following the Federal Reserve’s decision to cut its short-term rate by half a percentage point.

October 9: South Shore Savings Bank expands its mortgage business
South Weymouth bank bets on turnaround in mortgage industry with acquisition of Cambridge Mortgage Group.

October 8: Credit crisis cramps car sales
The credit market crisis is starting to put the brakes on car sales as more potential buyers are rejected for loans or receive loan terms they can’t afford.

October 7: Stocks tumble again: Dow down 500 points
The misery worsened on Wall Street Tuesday, with stocks piling on losses late in the session and bringing the two-day decline in the Dow Jones industrials to more than 875 points amid escalating worries about credit markets and the financial sector.

October 6: Dow closes down 360 after record-setting drop
Wall Street suffered through another extraordinary and traumatic session Monday, with the Dow Jones industrials plunging as much as 800 points — their largest one-day point drop — before recovering to close with a loss of 370. The catalyst for the selling, which also took the Dow below 10,000 for the first time in four years, was investors’ growing despair that the spreading credit crisis will take a heavy toll around the world.

October 4: Delahunt says bailout is bad deal for Main Street
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, one of two of the state’s 10 congressmen to oppose the government’s massive bailout of Wall Street, says the plan places the expense entirely on the backs of blameless Americans.

October 3: Lynch, Delahunt still against bailout
Reps. Stephen Lynch and William Delahunt, who opposed the bill when it failed in the House on Monday, say they remain against it. A vote on a revised, Senate-passed version is expected today.