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Leading Indicators For Jobless Single Mom: Phone Bill, Sam’s Club, Smokes With

March 31, 1993

Leading Indicators For Jobless Single Mom: Phone Bill, Sam’s Club, Smokes With AM-Clinton-Economy, Bjt

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ For Kathleen Bancroft, the leading economic indicators have nothing to do with the arcane mix of stock prices, inventories, delivery times and building permits used by government forecasters.

The jobless single mother’s leading indicators are the local help-wanted ads, the latest bulk-beef sale at Sam’s Club warehouse outlet, an uninsured $300 medical bill and what it costs to fill her 12-year-old Buick.

″I don’t even want to watch the news any more, because that’s all I see, all I hear - people losing their jobs, places closing down,″ she said, scanning the bulletin boards at the unemployment office here, jotting down numbers for job training programs.

The Commerce Department in Washington said Wednesday that its chief economic forecasting gauge rose 0.5 percent in February - a signal to the numbers crunchers that economic growth would last through midyear.

Ms. Bancroft, like many other unemployed Americans, said she isn’t convinced there is an economic recovery.

″Not as far as I can see, no,″ she said.

The 28-year-old 10th-grade dropout has quit smoking since she lost her salesperson’s job a few weeks ago, saving $2 a day on cigarettes. She won’t let her kids use the telephone for long distance calls. She buys clothes at the local Goodwill second-hand shop.She has no savings. She’s scared.

Ms. Bancroft was the shoe department manager at an Ames department store in Chestertown, Md. At a staff meeting before Christmas, management of the bankrupt company announced the store was closing.

″I don’t know what’s in the future, where my next job’s going to be, how much I’m going to make. Am I going to have benefits?″ she said.

The national labor picture suggests that layoff victims like Ms. Bancroft have bleak prospects for employment, particularly the kind of steady job with health insurance she once had. More employers are resorting to part-time temporary laborers they can use and discard at will.

Ms. Bancroft, who made about $18,000 last year, lives in a 31-foot trailer in a camp ground in Townsend, about 25 minutes north of Dover, with her two children and boyfriend, who makes $130 a week. She’s never been married and said her children’s father owes about $20,000 in back child support.

She pays $85 a week in rent and worries about the $21 it takes to fill the tank of her 1981 Buick Riviera.

″I just hope and pray nothing goes wrong with it,″ she said.

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