More Signs Of Economic Hard Times

In a week in which massive layoffs have taken place in some of America's biggest industries, three smaller signs of economic downturn: California's tax refunds are on hold, the Post Office is thinking of reducing delivery of mail by a day, and Starbucks is cutting back on decaf.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This week, we've heard a steady beat of bad economic news. There have been tens of thousands of jobs cut at companies like Caterpillar, Kodak, GM, Sprint, Cessna, Home Depot, Boeing.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And we got word that the state of California is holding tax refund checks to 2.74 million citizens and businesses.

SIEGEL: Another indicator of the economic crisis, yesterday, the postmaster general said huge deficits could force cutting the delivery of mail by one day a week.

NORRIS: Well, if you live in California, this could mean you won't notice as quickly when your tax refund has not come.

SIEGEL: A cup of coffee has not been immune. Starbucks said yesterday it would cut almost 7,000 jobs. The coffee company is also closing more stores.

NORRIS: And to make matters feel worse, Starbucks says it will no longer brew decaffeinated coffee after noon. We would have figured that more decaf was ordered in the latter part of the day, but we've never attended barista school. So Starbucks says the demand for decaf is greatly reduced in the afternoon. Go figure.

SIEGEL: We could go on, of course, but we won't. We can easily find examples of the downward economic spiral from major announcements, but we suspect that that's really part of the picture and we'd like your help to tell the broader story.

NORRIS: We're willing to bet that there are small signs in your town or your city, maybe even in your own actions. And we'd like you to tell us about them. So please, drop us a line about what you have been experiencing locally that points to the current state of the economy.

SIEGEL: To tell us about it, go to npr.org, click on "Contact Us," and be sure to put the words "hard times" in the subject line. And always, tell us where you're from and also how to say your name.

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