Customers and employees enter Washington Mutual's headquarters in Seattle. - The Associated Press

Seattle's latest nightmare

First, Boeing Co. Then Safeco Corp. and the SuperSonics. Now Washington Mutual.

"Seattle lost a piece of itself today," said Allen Stover, 60, who has banked at WaMu since he was a kid, as have his parents and grandparents.

On Friday, while withdrawing cash from a WaMu ATM machine, Stover lamented the loss of yet another Seattle institution, one with roots dating back to 1889.

"It's kind of demoralizing," he said. "It's going to change the way people look at things in the city."

The takeover of the nation's largest savings and loans by New York-based JPMorgan Chase isn't just a black mark on the economy but a blow to Seattle's psyche.

In recent years, Boeing Co. moved its Seattle corporate headquarters to Chicago. Boston-based Liberty Mutual bought Safeco Corp. And the team formerly known as the SuperSonics packed its bags and moved to Oklahoma.

"We're a bunch of losers," joked Seattle economist Dick Conway.

As with Boeing, there will be psychological loss from WaMu, but as with Boeing the economic impact may not be so severe, he said. Boeing's commercial airplane unit is still in Everett and retained most of the its local employees after the company moved its headquarters.

While the numbers aren't yet known, every WaMu job lost will likely result in another 1.5 jobs lost in the area economy, he said.

"They're probably the biggest private sector employer in downtown. So even with Seattle's relatively hanging-in-there economy, this could be hard for us," said Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association.

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