Mid-Southerner Pinched By Economic Slide

Memphis, TN – A quick trip to the mall, park or even to work is now a cause to pause. With gas prices nearing $4.00 a gallon, the economy is tanking. Money's tight, and it's beginning to hit home for Mid-Southerners. Candice Ludlow talked with a successful, Mid-South, self-employed graphic designer whose life has taken a striking downturn. So much, that he now finds himself scouting the want ads.

Billy Maharrey and his wife are both self employed. Billy is a graphic artist who, until January, did ad layout for a group of Mid-South auto dealers. He worked from his home, greeted his 4-year-old each morning as she awoke, and earned a good living just south of Memphis.

But something happened in January. As the federal government began talking about an impending recession, gas prices shot past $3.00, credit got tighter due to the sub-prime meltdown, and food costs continued spiraling upward. Now, the auto industry is feeling the squeeze. For Maharrey, it means his client base has shriveled.

At first, Maharrey figured he'd pick-up a few new clients, but that didn't work.

As Billy Maharrey looks to steady his family's financial situation, he continues to work their vegetable garden on their 6-acre homestead, conserve gas, eat out less, and scour the classified ads.

The job market is tight, with Tennessee's unemployment up to 6.4 percent. FedEx, Memphis' largest employer, has issued a hiring freeze last week. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis recently reported that retail and car sales are down, and the governor of Tennessee recently called for the voluntary layoff of 2,000 state employees.