Indiana’s labor force participation dawdles in new data as senators hear bill to help more parents get to work

New federal job market estimates show Indiana’s tight job market hasn’t really changed much in December 2022.

Indiana’s unemployment rate rose a fraction to 3.1 percent in December, according to preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics published Tuesday. While the monthly increase is small, it’s a significant change from the state’s unemployment rate of 2.2 percent in March 2022.

Still, the December rate below the national average of 3.5 percent and near historic lows for the state – as was the case for the remainder of 2022.

Other key data hardly changed or remained exactly the same. The BLS releases these unemployment figures a month later as a preliminary estimate, which can be adjusted up or down as a final estimate the following month.

The rate of working-age people actively working or looking for work in Indiana has stagnated at 63.2 percent. That’s marginally lower than July 2022, but still a significant increase above the 61.9 rate at which the state started 2022.

Experts say the labor force participation rate may be positively linked to rising unemployment. To count as unemployed in this data, people must be actively looking for work. That means both those who lost their jobs and those who were totally unemployed but are now actively looking for work count towards the state rate.

As we enter 2023, there is much more uncertainty. experts say These numbers aren’t good enough to tell whether the state and nation is headed for a full-blown recession or a much smaller economic recovery.

READ MORE: Economic uncertainty looms despite Indiana’s ‘scorching hot’ job market heading into 2023

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Anyhow, it seems that for the time being there are still many companies posting jobs for a limited number of job seekers.

Experts say one cause could be a deficiency Access to affordable child care in Indiana. Bill Konyha is President and CEO of the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana.

“Employers throughout Northeast Indiana and I suspect the state has taken extraordinary measures, I’m told, to try to find and recruit replacements for those jobs,” Konyha said. “Many positions are vacant because people have left during COVID and have not returned. Others are simply vacant because there are people who are otherwise willing to work but cannot afford childcare or early childhood education.”

On Monday, Konyha urged state lawmakers in the Senate Family and Child Services Committee to pass a bill that would fund a pilot program that splits child care costs between eligible families, employers and the state to help bring more parents back into the workforce. Each party bears a third of the costs.

“Suffice it to say that in Northeast Indiana we found that there are 8,987 willing parents,” Konyha said, referring to estimates prepared for the chamber by an Indianapolis-based consulting firm Thomas P Miller & Associates.

Senate Bill 368 proposes to allocate $11.5 million over two years to implement this pilot program in northeastern Indiana, with the goal of eventually expanding it nationwide. Some senators on the committee questioned whether it would be better to expand the pilot program to include data from a wider range of communities.

“Personally, I have no objection to an amendment that turns it into a nationwide program, provided you understand that it’s going to cost a lot more than $22 million,” Konyha said.

The committee eventually decided to postpone voting on the bill until some wording was added to create accountability to ensure funds are properly spent and results tracked.

There are several other bills at the Statehouse aimed at meeting child care needs in this session, including SB186, employers would give a tax credit to fund care, and HB1393which would raise the income threshold for families to access grants through existing government funds On my way Pre-K Program.

Contact Reporter Adam at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.

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