Tough Times (Editorial)

The dollar continues to hit new lows. Oil reaches new highs. Foreclosures double over last year. Home sales slide. The markets remain jittery. Construction is down. Manufacturing jobs continue to dwindle - Arkansas lost nearly 7,000 in the past year.

Two of Arkansas' biggest economic sectors - timber and trucking - are caught up in a downward spiral to which there seems to be no quick end. (Take a look at our cover story by Nate Hinkel on timber and the forest product companies list here.) Even retail has been lackluster as consumers have backed off spending, waiting to see where the economy is headed.

Third-quarter reports by several Arkansas companies were simply dismal. Deltic Timber Corp.'s income was down 96 percent, Arkansas Best Corp. posted a 40 percent decline, P.A.M. Transport Services Inc. earnings declined by 98.9 percent, and USA Truck Inc. hit bottom with a 99.5 percent drop.

Georgia-Pacific joined other forest product companies in laying off workers at Crossett for a time. Champion Parts at Hope filed for bankruptcy protection. And so it goes.

We have neither a magic wand to make things better nor a crystal ball to see where it's all heading. We can only hope for a turnaround soon and that the struggling companies that supply so many jobs in Arkansas can hang on until it happens.