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Ohio Youngsters Take Note Of 'Hard Times.'

Later this week,the Labor Department will give its latest snapshot of the job market. Ohio's unemployment rate remains in double digits. While Ohio cities have suffered much of the job losses, the slack economy also effects the state's small towns where young people have begun to take notice.

"The recession has arrived."

Ohio State University Agricultural Economist Matt Roberts says the economic downturn was a long time coming to rural Ohio and its farm economy. Agriculture is often touted as Ohio's biggest industry. And it helps fuel the economies of some of the state's smaller towns. Bucyrus, London, and Greenville come to mind. Roberts says record commodity prices last year boosted farm income. Tim White, editor of Ohio Farmer magazine in Lancaster, likens current conditions to a big squeeze and he cites the state's dairy industry as especially troubled

"Milk prices are extremely low. Feed prices are extremely high and they're caught in a big squeeze."

White and Roberts made their comments at this year's Farm Science Review. Nearly, 140,000 visited the three-day event, including many high schoolers on field trips. They too, sense an economic squeeze. 14 year old Carolyn Carmean and her friends live in Richwood, a small town northwest of Columbus in Union County.

"We just basically have one store. Its a very small town so there's not much there so people can have a lot of jobs. "

Carmean says the recession hit home when one of her parents was twice laid-off this year.

"Well I'm experiencing it right now. I'm going through it. We are unable to pay for our stuff so we have to move."

Carmean and her friends are just getting started in their working lives. Nathan Bigham, also of Richwood, says he first noticed the sluggish economy while doing work laying pavers and bricks for outdoor landscapes.

"We do really fancy work and like people don't want so much fancy stuff because they have to pay for it. And they don't got the money so us masonry workers are out of jobs."

As a result, Bigham says most days he has little or no spending money.

"Honestly, right now I am pretty much broke. So I don't go to Mcdonalds much anymore."

Megan Fogle, also of Richwood, says she's also noticed a downturn in the local economy.

"I don't know, it sucks, I guess. q) You really think so? Yeah. q) why do you say that? Because like everybody's getting laid off and then they don't have jobs and then they don't have money and then they can't buy anything or do anything."

Interviews with other youngsters show similar concerns. 14 year old Dane Simpson of Marysville says he makes about 35 to 40 dollars a week making pizzas so he can keep some cash in his pocket.

"I have a job now but the economy's so bad that I ain't getting much hours and so its getting hard to buy stuff."

Simpson says he's been forced to cutback especially on his entertainment purchases.

"Well my X-box 360 broke so I don't have enough money to buy that. So, I've given up alot of my X-box and all my other game systems."

Simpson says instead of going out and buying games he now spends most of his weekly pay on food. Taylor Renick of Lancaster says his plight is even worse. He wants to go to college in a couple of years but he's also having trouble finding work.

"I'm already looking. Q) how's that going? Horrible, Yeah, no one will hire me,at all. Q) In Lancaster, what are your options? There's like Kroger and Carnival and places at the mall and then there's like Mcdonalds and Burger King and Wendy's and all that."

Renick says he wants to study law after he graduates from high school in two years. Bigham, Fogle and Carmean are undecided about their future plans. Simpson says he hopes the economy improves and creates more jobs for young people.

"I hope they do but I'm planning on going into the military where there'll always be work."

Tom Borgerding WOSU News