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Funeral Business Feeling Six Feet Under

In case you've been dying for more bad news about the economy, here's a grave new indicator: Even the death industry is in a hole.

It has long been suspected that the funeral business is immune from economic cycles, that the Grim Reaper tends not to follow the stock market. But this time, funeral homes are discovering that their clients' thrift -- sheet-metal urns instead of bronze caskets, cheese-and-cracker nibbles instead of traditional funeral luncheons -- is positively killing profits.

So funeral directors did what everybody else does: They asked for a federal bailout. "We recognized that there may be a situation where a lot of folks who were displaced or unemployed might need some help in paying for their funerals," John Fitch Jr., lobbyist for the National Funeral Directors Association, explained yesterday at the group's annual gathering, at the Mayflower Hotel. "We had some preliminary discussions about providing some stimulus payments to the states" for funerals, he added.

Read the whole Sketch

By Dana Milbank  | April 1, 2009; 12:00 AM ET
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