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  • Photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Lisa Martin, left, and Marcy Buchanan, both of Pepperell, Mass., waited in line for more than an hour to buy Christmas gifts during Black Friday, November 27, 2009, at Kohls in Nashua.

  • Photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    With Christmas presents overflowing from their carts, shoppers Jessica Lemay of Lowell, Mass., and Amanda D'Hondt of Dracut continue to shop during Black Friday, November 27, 2009, at Target in Nashua.

  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    SHARE volunteers have packed more than 275 food baskets that will feed more than 1,350 people this Thanksgiving in the Milford area.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Region’s economic woes, shocking crimes were top stories of 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: 2009 was a tough year for the Nashua region, as it was for the country and the world. We felt the effect of events far beyond our borders such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the struggles in Washington over health care and other policies, but the big impact came from events closer at hand. This and subsequent page show The Telegraph’s look at some of the top stories of the year, the biggest of which is one that was felt locally as well as globally: the weak economy.

By the time 2009 rolled around, some of the shock had worn off from the stock market crash and economic panic that marked the fall of 2008. But the local economy remained in a slump this year, despite a few signs of improvement.

Consumers continued to struggle to find financing for cars and homes, as banks required near-perfect credit and big down payments. Development in the region all but stopped, and some construction sites were abandoned mid-work.

Jobs were difficult to come by – and to keep. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate soared from 5.1 percent in January to peak at 7.2 percent in September. The rate fell slightly by November but remained about double what it was just before the recession. Nashua’s unemployment rate was even higher this year, peaking at 8.3 percent.

Scores of unemployed joined networking groups after finding that not even advanced degrees and years of experience were enough to get a call back from a potential employer. In Nashua, a group of laid-off Fidelity workers formed a group in the spring called Network for Work that grew to more than 150 members.

Local car dealers struggled not only to find financing for their customers in a tightened credit market, but also to find financing to buy inventory. At least 11 dealerships in New Hampshire closed amid consolidations at General Motors and Chrysler. However, local dealers did get a big boost in sales from this summer’s wildly popular Cash for Clunkers program.

On the real-estate front, home prices continued to decline. The median sales price of a home in Hillsborough County was $230,000 through November, compared with $250,000 in 2008. But the number of sales increased, fueled by the federal first-time home-buyer tax credit. By the end of November, sales in Hillsborough County were up 6.6 percent for the year. In November alone, sales were a whopping 61.2 percent higher than in November 2008.

Foreclosures in Hillsborough County continued to rise through the third quarter, although Nashua’s numbers actually declined. Towns such as Milford and Hudson were particularly hard hit.

The last year of the decade also has seen the closure of several well-known stores on Main Street in Nashua, including Cameraland, Blackthorne Antiques and Interiors, Jordan’s Luggage, clothing store Tallulah Rose and Tee Shirt Bodega.

In January, Circuit City became the fourth big-box store on Daniel Webster Highway to close in the span of a few months.