- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) — The U.S. Conference of Mayors, meeting Wednesday, offered a bleak assessment of the nation's urban economy reporting the loss of 646,000 jobs in 2002 and predicting anemic job growth for 2003.

According to the report, 213 metropolitan areas, about two-thirds of the nation's total 319, showed losses of jobs. Six metro areas — New York; Chicago; Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; Boston; and Seattle — lost more than 40,000 jobs each. Some cities such as Detroit and Flint, Mich., were hard hit: Detroit lost 4 percent of its jobs and Flint 3.6 percent.

Along with downturns in tax revenue and in state and federal assistance, the increased homeland security costs after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks put urban areas in a critical financial squeeze, the mayors' report said.

"Cities have made massive investments in homeland security, at a time when the weak national economy has already strained our budgets," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, president of the conference. "Our new report predicts weak job growth and that is simply not acceptable. We must make strategic investments now in homeland security, transportation, housing and job training."

The mayors appealed for federal and state assistance, reporting that cities across the nation have made $2.6 billion homeland security investments since Sept. 11, 2001, with "no significant federal assistance to date."

The statement said "cities now face the likelihood of a foreign war that may require even stronger domestic preparedness efforts."

According to the mayors' economic study, 181 of 319 metro areas are expected to record job gains of less than 1 percent in 2003, "a rate of job growth so weak there will be little, if any, improvement in overall unemployment," the statement said.

Last year's job losses followed major declines in 2001, which saw cities such as Detroit lose 55,000 jobs and San Jose 15,000.

Overall, the mayors said, job growth in cities will average 0.7 percent annually, down sharply from 1.7 percent in the 1998-2001 period.

Although supporting many of President George W. Bush's economic-stimulus proposals, the mayors want accelerated assistance to offset homeland security costs and fiscal relief for states' Medicaid programs whose deficits run $60 billion to $80 billion.

The mayors have argued that more than any other jurisdiction, their fire departments, police units and medical units are the primary "first responders" in the event of another catastrophic terrorist attack and that in addition they also have major responsibilities in securing critical infrastructure.

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