Monthly Archives: December 2008

Jobless Rate Jumps in Kitsap to 5.8 Percent

By Rachel Pritchett

The unemployment rate in Kitsap County jumped to 5.8 percent in November from an adjusted 5.5 percent the previous month, the Washington State Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.

That’s up 1.5 percentage points from November a year ago.

Kitsap rate remained below that for the state, at 6.4 percent, and the nation, at 6.7 percent.

Chief Economist Mary Ayala expects the state to catch up with the rest of the nation, at some point.

“My best guess is that it’s going to come up,” she said when asked about the state unemployment rate she anticipates for December. The decline in retail sales will be to blame, she predicted.

Ayala also pointed to big losses in construction jobs in Washington, which she said accounted for 89 percent of all job losses here this year to date over the same period last year.

Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee said she anticipates Washington catching up with the rest of the nation mired in recession.

“Just as we saw with the 2002 recession, Washington’s economy held up longer than most of the nation, but we’re quickly catching up now,” she said.

Washington lost about 11,700 jobs in November. Besides construction, which shed 3,300 jobs, clothing and accessory stores lost 1,800 jobs, administrative and support services lost 1,600 and general eerchandise stores lost 1,200.

The total number of jobs in Washington in November was down 22,4000 over November 2007, a 0.8 decreasee.

But not all the news was bad.

Job growth continued to be seen in health services and social assistance with 700 new jobs; professional, scientific and technical services with 200 new jobs, electric market, agnts and brokers with 200 new jobs and transportaiton equipmenet manufacturing with 200 new jobs.

Some 17,000 available jobs are listed at

Unemployment in Mason County was measured at 7.7 percent in November, up from 7.4 percent in October.

Dow Reacts Favorably to Anticipated Fed Drop: At 8,660, up 96 at 11 Pacific Time

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street adopted an upbeat view Tuesday ahead of the Federal Reserve’s decision on interest rates, which some investors believe will bring the key U.S. rate to the lowest level on record. Stocks rose more than 1 percent, while yields on some U.S. government debt fell to fresh lows.

Investors uneasy about the economy continued to funnel money into the Treasury market, holding the yield on the 30-year long bond below 3 percent for a second day.

Against the fear that has gripped Wall Street since the mid-September bankruptcy of Lehamn Brothers Holdings Inc. and the subsequent freezing of the credit markets most economists are anticipating a half-point rate cut in the federal funds rate target from 1 percent to 0.5 percent. Some in the market have been pricing in an even larger cut to an all-time low of 0.25 percent.

The Fed’s decision is due at 2:15 p.m. Eastern time. As is generally the case, trading was subdued ahead of the announcement.

Richard E. Cripps, chief market strategist for Stifel Nicolaus, said investors will be looking for signs in the Fed’s statement that it still has weapons in its arsenal to combat the troubles facing the economy. By cutting interest rates so low some analysts have worried that policymakers will leave themselves without many options.

“I think the language is sort of the suspense at this point,” he said.

In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 107.60, or 1.26 percent, to 8,672.13. Stocks posted moderate declines Monday.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 15.04, or 1.73 percent, to 883.61, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 35.71, or 2.37 percent, to 1,544.05.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 12.93, or 2.86 percent, to 465.50.

Investors got two more pieces of evidence on Tuesday that the economy is worsening: The Commerce Department reported a 18.9 percent drop in new home construction in November, while the Labor Department said consumer prices sank by 1.7 percent.

Cripps said the recent string of downbeat economic readings could eventually convince Wall Street that the economy has hit a bottom and could be poised for a modest recovery. In past downturns, the data remain weak long after the economy has began to recover.

“The idea is it’s so bad that maybe it doesn’t take much to go up from here,” he said.

A rate cut and a statement by the Fed pledging further action could help reassure investors who are concerned that the government has been left with too few tools to prop up the economy.

President-elect Obama said Tuesday the Fed is “running out of the traditional ammunition” to combat the recession and that it was important that other government branches “step up.” Obama’s economic team is meeting Tuesday.

A rate move Tuesday could end up being more symbolic than anything — the fed funds rate target helps determine the rate at which banks lend one another the reserves they keep at the Fed. And that actual rate is already below 0.25 percent.

Investors remain uneasy but somewhat more optimistic about the financial sector. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999, losing $2.29 billion during its fiscal fourth quarter. The company lost $4.97 per share in the quarter ended Nov. 30. In the year-ago quarter, Goldman earned $3.17 billion, or $7.01 per share. Investors relieved that the losses weren’t worse sent stocks higher. The stock rose $7.33, or 11 percent, to $73.79.

Craig Peckham, equity trading strategist at Jefferies & Co., said investors are looking for up-to-the-minute predictions from the Fed on how the economy will fare.

“I don’t think that there’s anything at this point that will take the market by surprise,” he said, adding that investors will be focused on “just how long the Fed thinks this economic malaise is going to persist.”

Beyond worries about the economy, Wall Street remained nervous about the growing list of firms and individual investors affected by investment manager Bernard Madoff, who is accused of scamming investors.

Madoff, former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, was arrested Thursday for orchestrating what prosecutors allege was a $50 billion Ponzi scheme to defraud investors. Firms invested in his fund include such major European banks as HSBC Holdings PLC, Banco Santander, BNP Paribas, and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC.

Demand for government bonds remained high Tuesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.51 percent from 2.53 percent late Monday. The yield on the 30-year fell to 2.92 from 2.99 percent late Monday. It fell to a record low of 2.91 percent earlier.

Meanwhile, the yield on the popular three-month T-bill — whose yield has at times gone negative due to frenzied buying — rose to 0.04 percent from 0.02 percent late Monday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude fell 44 cents to $44.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Markets overseas were mixed. Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 1.12 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.55 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.74 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 1.61 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 2.07 percent.

Recession Hits Even 6 Feet Under

Americans sell burial plots, scale back funerals

The Associated Press

After months of unemployment and weeks of soul searching, Helen Walker has decided she won’t spend eternity alongside her parents at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Md.

Instead, the 61-year-old Indian Trail, N.C., resident, who’s worried about making ends meet from one day to the next, is selling off her burial plot and planning to be cremated when she dies.

“I know in my heart my mom’s saying, ‘Take care of yourself. You need to pay your monthly bills. Take care of yourself and if this will help, do it,”’ said Walker, who lost her job as a cashier in June.

Mounting financial pressures are prompting Americans to sell their cemetery plots for cash, arrange less-formal funerals and consider cremation as a more affordable alternative to burials. Breaking away from traditional, sometimes expensive funeral protocol is just one of the ways families are shaving off nonessential spending, experts say.

People typically sell burial plots, which cost between $1,500 and $4,000 on average, when they move to other parts of the country or get divorced. But growing numbers are doing it to simply raise cash, according to several cemetery plot brokers.

Whether the money is needed for rent or another pressing expense, “people are just blatant about it,” said Bob Ward, who runs The Final Arrangements Network, a Web business that advertises tens of thousands of burial plots.

The uptick in sales is driving down prices and creating a buyers market, said Ken Brant, marketing director for GraveSolutions, a national online database that charges a one-time fee of about $89 to advertise burial plots and $49 for certified appraisals. “People are looking for bargains,” Brant said.

Financially squeezed families that are going ahead with burial plans are opting for less formal services. That means nixing limousine rides, purchasing less ornate caskets and in some cases putting off tombstone purchases, funeral industry experts say.

“Are we going to bankrupt the living to pay for the dead?” said Josh Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit organization that offers advice on funerals.

The Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America said sales of mahogany, copper and bronze caskets — which can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 — are on the decline.

Instead, low-end metal caskets can be purchased for about $1,000 and the most basic pressboard, wooden caskets go for around $400.

Likewise, lower-cost urns, for those who choose cremation, are on the rise, said Ralf Heckenbach, president of Corpus Christi, Texas-based Prestige Memorial.

Demand for cremation services, which cost anywhere from about $600 to $3,000 depending on location and type of service, also appears to be on the rise.

“We’re hearing reports that families that may have been on the border line of a traditional burial funeral and a cremation for less money — that more of them are opting for the cremation route than we’ve seen in a while,” said Mark Allen, executive director of the Casket & Funeral Supply Association of America.

Pat Lynch, treasurer for the National Funeral Directors Association — and a funeral home director in suburban Detroit, said there’s no truth to the belief that funeral homes are immune to economic downturns.

“During very, very good times people might be inclined to spend more on memorialization than they would otherwise,” Lynch said. “During very, very difficult times … they taper back if they need to.”

Laurel Gill, a Golden, Colo., resident is hoping to sell three burial spaces to bolster her 86-year-old mother’s finances. The family is opting for cremations because they’re less expensive than traditional burials, and the money from the plot sales will go to Gill’s mother and perhaps to another family member.

In Columbia, S.C., one funeral home director who caters mostly to African-American families predicted the times will get tougher as people stop paying life insurance policies that help fund funerals.

“And people who do have life insurance policies will not spend as much because they will need to save money to pay for other bills,” said Chris Leevy Johnson, managing director of Leevy’s Funeral Home.

Leslie Vandegrift is selling off a burial space at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colo., as she keeps a wary eye on the economy and her own finances, which she said are not in dire straits.

“This would be a way of getting some extra money,” said Vandegrift, a 68-year-old retiree who sold her home in Denver a few years ago to travel the country in a 16-foot camper. “We’re all scaling back on things right now … and for Americans it really is a wake up call to watch what it is you spend money on.”

Monday Stocks at 8,562 at 11:45 Pacific Time, Down 67

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock prices edged lower Monday as investors’ anxieties turned from the beleaguered auto industry to the growing list of firms affected by investment manager Bernard Madoff.

Investors also were anxious ahead of earnings reports later this week from the country’s two largest investment banks, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley.

Stocks had traded mixed early on as investors were relieved to hear that President George W. Bush was working on providing short-term government help for the auto industry. The Senate last week rejected a $14 billion bailout for the automakers — raising the possibility of a major bankruptcy, which some analysts say would result in as many as 3 million U.S. job losses next year.

Good Monday, Bloggers, Look Like Gas Prices Hiccuped Up Over the Weekend

I noticed gas at my favorite station north of Poulsbo stalled and bumped up a couple of cents over the weekend. According to this AP story, it’s just reflecting a temporary bump-up in the price of oil. Rachel


The Associated Press

Retail gasoline prices rose over the weekend for the first time in nearly three months, though crude prices fell Monday ahead of an OPEC meeting in Algeria where oil producing countries are expected to announced huge production cuts.

After hitting a low of $1.6559 gallon Friday, gas prices rose over the weekend to break an 86-day streak begun in July after prices topped $4.11 per gallon, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

With average wholesale costs rising 20 cents per gallon or more since late November, “there’s a sense that the Autumn low of $1.6559 gal may indeed represent the 2008 low water mark for street prices,” OPIS analyst Tom Kloza said in a note.

Light, sweet crude for January on the New York Mercantile Exchange peaked briefly above $50 a barrel early Monday. Oil rose on cartel members’ comments about upcoming cuts, with support from a weakening dollar and cold weather, said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago.

Interest Rate Drop Anticipated

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve is widely expected to ratchet down a key interest rate — perhaps to an all-time low— to prevent the sinking economy from falling deeper into the doldrums.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues open a two-day meeting Monday to take a fresh pulse on the ailing economy, which has been mired in a recession since last December, and to decide their next move on interest rates.

Fighting the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, the Fed already has pushed down its main lever for influencing the economy — the federal funds rate — to 1 percent, a level seen only once before in the last half-century.

Many economists predict the Fed will cut its rate in half — to just 0.50 percent when the session wraps up on Tuesday. A few think the Fed could opt for an even more forceful action — lowering rates by a whopping three-quarters percentage point or more. If that larger cut occurs, it would be the lowest on records that track the monthly average of the targeted funds rate going back to 1954. The funds rate is the interest banks charge each other on overnight loans.

However deeply the Fed decides to cut rates, the prime rate — now at 4 percent — for many consumer and small-business loans would drop by a corresponding amount. The prime lending rate is used to peg rates on home equity loans, certain credit cards and other consumer loans. Cheaper rates could give pinched borrowers a dose of relief.

The goal of lower borrowing costs is to entice people and businesses to spend more, which would revive the economy. So far, though, the Fed’s aggressive rate reductions have failed to turn the economy around.

Walloped by the financial crisis, worried banks have hoarded their cash and been extremely reluctant to lend money to customers. Fearful consumers, watching jobs vanish and their investments tank, have sharply cut back their spending, including big-ticket purchases like homes and cars that typically involve financing.

Industrial Output Fell Less Than Expected in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Industrial output fell slightly less than expected in November as manufacturers continued to suffer from weakness in autos and many other areas that is not expected to ease anytime soon.

The Federal Reserve reported Monday that industrial activity dropped by 0.6 percent in November. Economists expected a decline of 0.8 percent.

The manufacturing sector is suffering like the rest of the economy from the deepening recession, which has cut consumer demand for many products.

“Manufacturing production tanked in November and the data were even worse than they look,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. “The only industry that posted a gain was aircraft and that was only because Boeing started back up after the strike.”

The 0.6 percent drop in November followed a revised 1.5 percent increase in October. However, that gain occurred after a 4.1 percent plunge in September, which represented the biggest one-month drop since a 5 percent decline in February 1946.

For November, manufacturing output was down 1.4 percent, reflecting a 2.8 percent decline in production at auto plants, the third drop in the past four months. Production fell by a huge 11 percent in August and 3.6 percent in October.

Detroit automakers last week got turned down in a bid for a bailout package from Congress when Senate Republicans insisted the auto unions agree to wage cuts. General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. all are seeking assistance, but the prospects at GM are considered the most dire.

After a weekend trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, President George W. Bush told reporters on Air Force One on Monday that the administration would provide short-term government assistance, saying “an abrupt bankruptcy for autos would be devastating for the economy.”

For November, output at aerospace factories, the category that includes airplane manufacturer Boeing Co., jumped by 12.8 percent after three straight months of declines.

A strike halted production at Boeing’s commercial airplane factories for eight weeks before the Machinists union accepted a four-year contract and began returning to work on Nov. 2. The strike cut Boeing’s revenues by more than $100 million a day and forced subcontractors worldwide to lay off workers.

Output at the nation’s mines, a category that includes oil and gas production, increased by 2.5 percent in November following an even bigger 7.2 percent rise in October. The October gain followed a 9.5 percent plunge in September as production along the Gulf Coast was disrupted by the September hurricanes.

Production at the nation’s utilities rose by 1.6 percent in November following a 0.7 percent increase in October.

The Fed said the rebound following the end of the Boeing strike and the hurricanes added almost 1 percentage point to industrial production in November.

Treasury Bills at Lowest Level in History

WASHINGTON (AP) — Interest rates on six-month Treasury bills have fallen to the lowest level on record at the weekly Treasury auction.

The government said that the Monday auction saw rates on six-month bills drop to 0.270 percent. That was down from a rate of 0.300 percent last week. Heavy demand for Treasury securities by nervous investors has pushed rates to very low levels.

While rates on three-month bills edged up slightly at Monday’s auction, they still remained close to zero. The rate for a three-month bill rose to 0.050 percent, up from 0.005 percent last week.

Kitsap Business Briefs

On the Job

Paul Uhlig, chief operating officer and senior vice president of Liberty Bank, recently completed the American Bankers Association Intermediate Compliance School held in Lisle, Ill. The training will help him implement the bank’s compliance program and ensure effective business initiatives. The ABA Intermediate Compliance School is the leading educational forum for bank regulatory compliance professionals. 

Mechelle Hoerer has been promoted to branch manager at the Silverdale branch of American Marine Bank. She has been with the bank since 2002, beginning as a teller. She was then promoted to operations supervisor and most recently to officer level. Hoerer is active in many local events and volunteers with the Central Kitsap Parent Teachers Association, Clear Creek Elementary, and the Silverdale Rotary.


Paratransit Services
Wins Oregon Deal 


The City Council in Bend, Ore., is retaining the services of Paratransit Services in Bremerton to operate its area transit. 

It noted that “Paratransit Services provided a better presentation, scored highest on the questions, offered the lowest price over the life of the contract, and offered a strong and consistent management team that was responsive to City concerns and requests.”

The new three-year contract, which is being finalized, will become effective in January 2009 and can be extended for a year twice. 

Serving a growing central Oregon community of 77,780 people, Bend Area Transit provides fixed route and curb-to-curb Dial-A-Ride service to the general public. Paratransit Services personnel operate the system from a facility in Bend, with corporate support from company headquarters in Bremerton.

Founded in 1980, Paratransit Services currently operates accessible public transit systems in Washington state, Oregon and Northern California. They have operated Bend Area Transit since Dec. 1, 2003.


John L. Scott
Opens in Belfair


Rob Drexler and Kris Klusman have opened a John L. Scott franchise office in Belfair at 23552 NE Highway 3, Suite 2B. 

Both are local Realtors with years of experience. Drexler was part of top-producing real estate trio before accepting this position. His partners, Margie Heath and Alisha Harrison, are joining the John L. Scott Belfair team.

Klusman was the owner and broker of a privately owned real estate company in Belfair before joining with Drexler. Klusman brought with him five agents from his previous real estate office, and together he and Drexler have attracted four additional local agents. They hope to eventually staff the office with 25 agents. Klusman will serve as principal broker.

Reach them at (360) 275-1600.


WSTA Elects
Board Members


The West Sound Technology Association recently elected a new board of directors.

Directors are Doña Keating, president and CEO of Professional Options; William Huckabee, SharePoint Developer for General Dynamics; Charles Keating, president of Keating Consulting; and Chad Gregg, chief information officer for Kitsap Bank. 

Newly elected members are Ann Jensen Warman, founder and president of brandUNITY Inc.; Theodore “Ted” Farmer Jr., an appraiser at TRF Appraisal; and Craig Bleile, who is employed by the Navy at Keyport. Bleile previously served on WSTA’s board and also was its corporate secretary. 

Officers will be appointed at the annual board retreat Jan. 3. Anthony Smallbeck, director of finance for Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, retired from the board in early September, citing a busy schedule, and Brian Morkert, president of TrustCC and WSTA’s vice president, will retire at the end of this year.


Shipyard Plans
Career Fair 


Ever wonder what it’d be like to work at the shipyard? There’s an opportunity to find out.

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, which will be hiring several hundred people next year, will host a career fair Jan. 30 and 31 at Kitsap Sun Pavilion, 1195 NW Fairgrounds Road. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Prospective applicants will be able to explore career opportunities, learn about trades, meet with PSNS and IMF managers, and find out about security and physical requirements. 

Positions for which the shipyard will be hiring this year include air-conditioning equipment mechanic, composite/plastic fabricator, crane operator, electrician, electronics industrial equipment mechanic, electronics mechanic, electroplater, fabric worker, heavy mobile equipment mechanic, instrument mechanic, insulator, machinist, marine machinery mechanic, metal forger, oiler, painter, pipe fitter, production machinery mechanic, rigger, sheet metal mechanic, shipfitter, shipwright, toolmaker, welder and woodcrafter. Student trainees and helpers will also be sought in various trades.

An applicant must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen.

Backpacks and briefcases won’t be allowed in the pavilion. All hand-carried items will be subject to search.

Applicants for Department of Navy positions must apply on the Department of Navy Web site at



Dec. 18

What: Olympic Business Exchange, a chapter of BNI, will host Bill Richardson of Edward Jones, who will make a 10-minute presentation about tax harvesting. The group gathers every Thursday morning to network and pass along business referrals. All business professionals interested in increasing their business are encouraged to attend. 

For More Information: Contact Shannon Corin at (360) 908-1098, e-mail her at

When: 7:30 a.m.

Where: Silverdale Beach Hotel, 3037 NW Bucklin Hill Road in Silverdale. 


Dec. 18

What: West Sound Technology Association will have its eighth annual holiday social. There will be refreshments and prizes.

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Old Town Bistro Martini Wine Bar, 3388 NW Byron St. in Old Town Silverdale. 

Cost: Free for members and guests.

RSVP: Required; with HolidaySocial RSVP in the subject line.


Jan. 7

What: The Washington CASH (Community Alliance for Self-Help) micro enterprise program in Kitsap County will hold orientation for its first business start-up training for 2009. The first class in the eight-week program will be Jan. 14 and classes will be held at the Kitsap Community Resources Center. 

Students will learn marketing, cash flow, sales, taxes, how to prepare a check register, profit and loss statements and how to start and operate a business. CASH maintains programs for minorities and business training in additional languages.

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Kitsap Community Resource Center,1201 Park Ave. in Bremerton

For Registration and Information: Visit www.WashingtonCASH or call (360) 698-4088. 


Jan. 8

What: The Real Estate Investors of Kitsap will host guest speaker Mike Sumsky of Washington Home Solutions in Port Orchard. In the workshop he will discuss “Secrets of Seller Financing for the Real Estate Investor.” 

He will focus on creative deal structuring on homes with high equity, a method he says works in any market, on any priced home and is one of the few methods where you can pay the seller’s asking price and still receive a huge check on the day you buy, get great cash flow and a large back end profit, all without spending a dime of your own money.

When: 6:30 p.m.

Where: Poulsbo Library, 700 NE Lincoln Road in Poulsbo.

Cost: Free to members; $10 cash or check for non-members.

Registration Required: Visit


Jan. 15

What: The West Sound Technology Association will host a program, “Life from the Bleachers: Automated Virtual IT,” for small and medium business owners who want to learn how a more efficient IT consultant or solution can make a business run more smoothly. 

It also will allow consultants and IT providers learn about products and services that enable them to reliably and efficiently deliver IT to more customers with lower effort by leveraging virtualization, automation and enterprise class tools. 

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Poulsbo Regional Library Community Room, 700 NE Lincoln Road.

Cost: Free to members; $10 for non-members. 

Registration: Required by visiting 


Feb. 17

What: West Sound Technical Association will host a program, “Can Technology Save Our Auto Industry?” with guest speaker Dan Preston, CEO of Medius Technologies. He will focus on the role of Bluetooth technology in creating the next generation of connected cars, which are more fuel efficient, safer, and smart. 

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Poulsbo Regional Library Community Room, 700 NE Lincoln Road.

Cost: Free to members; $10 for non-members. 

Registration: Required by visiting 


March 19

What: West Sound Technology Association will present a program, “Small and Medium Business Trends for 2009 and Beyond,” with internationally-renowned author and entrepreneur Harry Brelsford of SMB Nation. He will provide an expert’s view on small and medium business trends, including tools, decisions, priorities and opportunities. 

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Poulsbo Regional Library Community Room, 700 NE Lincoln Road.

Cost: Free to members; $10 for non-members.

Registration: Required by visiting

Kitsap Sun staff