Unemployment and Change in Bethlehem

    So how did this turbulent time in the industry affect the city of Bethlehem?  The tens of thousands of laid-off workers came to rely more on local social service agencies, which were now in a double bind, since the donations from the Steel that had funded them were cut off.  These lay-offs kept Northampton County’s unemployment rate South Bethlehem homes in double digits, while neighboring  Lehigh County was only 8.8%.  Not only were ex-workers affected, but so were their families.  The Valley Youth House’s runaway shelter and counseling centers helped about 800 children in 1981; by the mid-eighties, they helped over 2,000 a year. (A01)  The United Way collected over half of its $2.58 million from the Steel and its employees in 1980.  In 1984, the Steel was able to give less than a third of the campaign goal. (A01)  Real estate also suffered greatly from the downfall of Bethlehem Steel.  An exodus of steel executives from the company-dominated Saucon Valley lowered the prices on its notable homes.  City officials believe that if the Steel had stayed strong, a modern office building on Main Street would stand on what is now a gravel parking lot, and The Marketplace, a now-deserted downtown mall, would be alive and prospering with shoppers. (A01)  Yet speculating on what could have been and dwelling on what had been was pointless, for now the city had to decide how to rebuild itself after its Steel supports collapsed. 


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