Everyone feared it was coming. But that didn't soften the body blow that Monaco Coach Corp. delivered with Monday's announcement that it was terminating 2,000 employees and will close if a buyer or funding are not soon found.

Most of those workers have been furloughed without pay since December. Neither Monaco nor the recreational vehicle industry has shown signs of recovering from a slump that began in 2007 and is now the deepest in decades.

As recently as last week, Monaco officials said they hoped to resume production, raising employees' hopes that the company's scramble for new ownership or financing had met with success. Those hopes perished with Monday's pink slips.

In a letter to employees, the company explained that it didn't notify them earlier for fear it might undermine efforts to secure new financing or attract a buyer. That has angered some Monaco workers who feel Monaco gave them false hope they would soon be back at work. But there is no reason to doubt that company officials were doing all they could to salvage Monaco's future. And anyone tracking the company's struggles in recent months should not have been surprised by Monday's announcement.

Sales of luxury motor homes dropped by 45 percent in 2008 and are expected to keep plunging this year, as credit remains clenched and consumer confidence sub-abysmal. That has meant trouble not only for Monaco, but for Oregon's other big motor coach companies, Country Coach of Junction City and Marathon Coach of Coburg.

Country Coach idled its factory and laid off 500 workers late last year, and the privately held company's majority owner is trying to put it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it seeks a buyer. Marathon shut down production at its plant in October but hopes to bring back its 350 employees and resume full production later this year.

The loss of 2,000 manufacturing jobs is significant for any community. It will be felt even more acutely in Coburg and surrounding communities, where the RV industry became an economic powerhouse after the decline of the timber industry in the 1980s.

The loss of Monaco's jobs is compounded by the layoffs and closures of other regional employers that preceded Monday's announcement - and by those that will follow in the difficult weeks and months to come.

Communities should do everything possible to help Monaco employees and others who have lost their jobs. State and local government agencies should put a human and accessible face on the services they offer. People who don't already donate to FOOD for Lane County and other local charities should consider doing so regularly. Members of faith communities should reach out to all who are hurting - both inside and outside their doors. Neighbors should watch out for fellow neighbors who need assistance, whether it's an invitation to dinner, a job tip or just a word of encouragement.

It is in troubled times such as these that the character of a state and its communities are tested. The testing has begun for Coburg, Junction City, Eugene, Springfield - and every other community where workers are losing jobs and need a steadying hand.

Oregonians have proven time and again that they are a resilient, determined and compassionate people. They are capable of not only surviving the hardest blows, but of helping their neighbors do the same. Now they are called to do so again, and there's reason to believe they are more than equal to the challenge.

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