Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Up Up and Away - Layoffs at Kennedy Space Center

As NASA's space shuttle program wraps it up, a massive workforce in Florida and Texas is about to become unemployed. Now back in the 1960's I worked as a computer technician for a few companies (Applied Physics Lab of John Hopkins University, Burroughs Corp., and Electronic Associates). In 1967 RCA flew me to Florida to interview for a job at Cape Canaveral. The place was a boom town. I decided not to go with them and went with Electronic Associates out of West Long Branch, NJ (now defunct but at that time was the 10th largest computer company in the USA) and they sent me to work in Huntsville, Alabama. When the contract ended they sent me to Orlando, Florida to work at what was then Martin Marietta Corporation. This was in 1969 the space program had landed on the moon and the mission was accomplished so 8,000 employees were laid off from a workforce of 23,000. The Cocoa Beach - Cape Canaveral area was a waste land. People were begging for jobs. The average pay of electronic engineers dropped to that of a migrant worker (which they were - they just didn't know it). So many people defaulted on their homes and not paying property tax the school system was in a panic. It took a number of years for the workforce to adjust.

Again in 1977 a repeat of the economic devastation of 1969, when NASA abruptly cancelled the Apollo program; everything from rocket science to real estate was impacted, practically overnight. They had 28% unemployment.

So now in 2011 we are looking at it again, but it is not like they didn't have warning. Anyone who works government project should always have a backup plan. Buying a house is already cheap in Florida, when this round of layoffs is complete they should be even cheaper. Well in 1969 Disney World wasn't open so maybe they can find work there.

I think it is a shame they are not making more of an effort to move into space. It was that dream given to us from the Kennedy years and anyone who grew up in that time period still cherish the dream. "One small step for man turned into one small 12-step program to space sobriety" wrote Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post in a recent article "Space ceased to be somewhere you went for its own sake and became a program we praised for its externalities — satellite communications and Silly Putty and pens that wrote upside down...The future turned out to be celebrity tabloids and magical personal screens and the continuation of old feuds, not mankind suddenly clasping hands and setting its sights for the beyond....The greatest argument against space travel has always been that “we have enough problems right here.” Well, “here” is a strange word. Here is hurtling through space at thousands of kilometers per second. It is only in our minds that we aren’t moving. And as we hurtle onward through space, on a launch pad in Florida, the pillar of fire transforms into a pillar of cloud and the Atlantis vanishes into the sky. And we look up. I hope it’s not the last time that we do."

Of course since the world will end in 2012 what difference does it make anyway?

From another website - no idea if accurate but it looks right
Kennedy Space Center (KSC) NASA and contractor employment
1968 - 25,767 (peak)
1971 - 15,000
1973 - 14,000
1974 - 9,450
1975 - 8,500 - Brevard County unemployment rate 18%
1976 - 8,441 (lowest level reached post Apollo / pre-Shuttle)
1978 - 10,000
1979 - 10,600
1980 - 13,876
1983 - 12,000
1986 - 16,000
1987 - 13,500
couldn't find data in the 1990's
2003 - 13,800
2005 - 14,000
2007 - 15,000
2009 - 15,400
2009 - 13,000
2011 - 8,900 (as of 5/13/2011)

1 comment:

C21801 said...

wow, how many jobs have you had over the years?