INDIANAPOLIS — Unemployment in northeastern Indiana fell in December from November, but rates are still above last year’s record lows, according to data released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
“The absurdly low unemployment rates of December 2021, including some counties with unemployment rates below 1%, were unsustainable, so the overall increase – people working, people looking for work and the unemployment rate – is actually a healthy sign, jobs shows confidence,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of Purdue University’s Fort Wayne Community Research Institute. “Northeast Indiana counties in particular, and Indiana in general, aren’t showing any immediate signs of an economic slowdown, but employment is a lagging indicator, so These tea leaves look at what has already happened and tell us nothing of what is yet to come Regardless, the increase in the available workforce should bring some relief to employers so desperate to find vacancies, but only if they a competitive salary including Be offer payment and benefits.
Steuben and Whitley counties returned 1.9% in December compared to 2.0% in Steuben in November and 2.2% in Whitley, the lowest counts in KPC Media’s coverage areas.
Elsewhere in KPC Media’s coverage area, Noble County returned 2.5% in December compared to 2.8% in November. LaGrange County fell back to where it previously ranked, 2.0%, from 2.5% in November. DeKalb County fell to 2.0% from 2.3% in November, while Allen County fell to 2.2% from 2.7% in November.
While these stats are much lower than what would be considered full employment – between 4% and 5% – they are higher than in December 2021, when rates were at outrageous rates of 1% to 2% across the region.
Perhaps most telling about the new data set is that all counties in the region are seeing labor force growth, while employed numbers are corresponding.
The December employment statistics show a 3.6% year-on-year increase in the Greater Fort Wayne Statistical Area’s labor force — both employed and jobseekers. In December 2021 there were 213,153 and in the last month it was 220,727, an increase of 7,574 people. The unemployment rate rose to 2.2%, with just over 4,800 people in the greater Fort Wayne area actively seeking employment, compared to 1.4%, or nearly 3,000 people, a year ago.
The number of unemployed is still very low, especially in rural districts. Of the six counties, Whitley County has the lowest unemployment rate at 333 — in fact, it’s the most sparsely populated.
While tech-focused employers like Amazon, Google and Meta have laid off workers in other cities, the small proportion of workers who work locally in those fields is unlikely to affect the local job market, Blakeman said. If the layoffs spread to manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and healthcare, Indiana’s Northeast could see a rise in unemployment in the coming months, but it’s unclear how many of those workers could be quickly absorbed by job vacancies.
“If we’ve learned anything over the past three years, it’s that when it comes to the economy, past performance is not an indicator of future results,” Blakeman said. “While there is a lot of uncertainty out there, including inflation falling but still well above the 2% target, the current job market remains strong. Does this mean we can avoid a downturn? Not necessarily, but there is no immediate concern. Now is an excellent time to save some money for an emergency fund if that’s in your budget, or consider upskilling to increase your chances on the job.”
“While some employers continue to struggle to find workers, some individuals returning to the labor market may find an increasingly competitive job market,” said Rick Farrant, director of communications for Northeast Indiana Works. “This means that for some positions there may not be a shortage of candidates and for the first time in a long time these employers can choose to be demanding in their hiring. This is a small window of light in an otherwise difficult period for employers who still have many open positions overall. As of January 17, there were more than 14,000 online jobs in Northeast Indiana.”