Despite recent good news for the Putnam County employment picture, the latest statistics put the local jobless rate at one of its worst levels ever.
Putnam County, once a regular among the top 10 best unemployment rates in the state during most of the 1990s, posted a 12.3 percent jobless mark during February, according to Indiana Department of Workforce Development statistics.
That figure ranks the county 86th -- or sixth worst (in a tie with Jennings County in southeastern Indiana) -- among the 92 Hoosier counties. Only Franklin (12.4 percent), Newton (12.6), Crawford (12.7), Fayette (12.7) and Vermillion (13.7) ranked lower than Putnam County in the most recent statistical survey.
Daviess County in southern Indiana posted the best jobless rate for February at 5.7 percent.
Among neighboring counties, Hendricks ranked the best (12th overall) at 7.6 percent. Montgomery County was 22nd at 8.6 percent, while Morgan (10 percent) was tied for 45th best and Parke was tied for 50th best at 10.1 percent.
Owen County, at 10.6 percent, was tied for 60th overall, while Clay County logged an 11.8 percent February rate that was good for 78th overall.
The Putnam County jobless rate figures to improve later this year with at least two Greencastle industries, Crown Equipment Corp. and Chiyoda, having already announced expansion projects and future employment additions.
Statewide, Indiana's preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate actually dropped 0.3 percent, to 8.8 percent in February. It marks the first time since December 2008 the state's unemployment rate has been less than 9 percent.
Indiana's rate is now just below the national average of 8.9 percent and below that of all neighboring states. Illinois is at 8.9 percent. Ohio is at 9.2, while both Kentucky and Michigan recorded 10.4 percent jobless rates last month.
Private sector employment in Indiana declined in February (-1,600).
"The number of Hoosiers claiming state unemployment insurance benefits is less than half the number it was two years ago," Commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development Mark W. Everson said. "Moreover, new claims for unemployment insurance are now at a level not seen since 2006."