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Column: Economy Woes Hurt All But Wal-Mart

This story was written by Jessica Turnbull, Daily Collegian

Everyone hates to admit it, but the holidays, including Christmas, are just around the corner.

Unfortunately, this year's holiday shopping season is coming at a time when the American economy is plummeting.

The government announced last week that the number of unemployed men and women rose last month by 603,000.

There are now 10.1 million unemployed Americans, the largest number since 1983. Unemployment will likely rise from 6.5 percent to 8 percent by next year, according to experts.

It's not a good time to be a college student entering the job force in a few months.

When the economy has lost 1.2 million jobs, it's discouraging for new applicants trying to obtain non-existent positions at businesses that are cutting costs and jobs.

One retailer, however, has stood apart in the disastrous forecast for the impending holiday season -- Wal-Mart.

Business experts are predicting the holiday will be a "Wal-Mart Christmas" and, as college students, it's not hard to understand why. Ask most students where they shop for their necessities, including food, and they will point to Wal-Mart.

The prices of consumer products have risen 7.8 percent over the past two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That change is forcing Americans to change their buying habits and switch from name-brand products to save at the register.

Wal-Mart is one place that offers those types of options and prices, hence its popularity among cash-strapped students.

Some people are wary of the monopoly that the retail giant can create. Wal-Mart has been accused of pushing out small business owners and treating its employees poorly, particularly in the area of healthcare. However, most college students are not in a position to be as selective or picky as they may like.

But in a time when retailers are in the red, Wal-Mart is reporting profit -- a concept that is virtually non-existent for every other American company.

Banks are closing and major manufacturers are being forced to lay off more workers, with no hope in sight.

Every day, the economic headlines read like obituaries. Circuit City files for bankruptcy. GM's shares plunge. Fannie Mae loses $29 billion. The forthcoming holiday season will likely bring more headlines of disappointing sales.

It's hard not to be depressed.

Americans are now forced to face the hard reality that the thriving United States economy is not as dependable as it once was. The dips and rises of the stock market were the first clue of the difficulties to come.

And the changes have come quickly. Last year, the unemployment rate was just 4.8 percent. This year, it's at 6.5 percent.

"There is no light at the end of the tunnel, and the outlook is pitch black," Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research told the Washington Post.

What an exciting prospect for college graduates, who are leaving with thousands of dollars in debt.

But at least we have Wal-Mart, which is already advertising the upcoming holiday. In case shoppers didn't notice the giant tree at the entrance, holiday music is already being blared from the loudspeakers.

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