Talk about the quintessential good news-bad news scenario. At least that is how the latest Putnam County unemployment figures could be interpreted.
First the good news. The March jobless rate is better than February's by more than one percent. A month ago that figure was 12.3 percent, which for February landed Putnam County in the bottom six of the state rankings, quite possibly its worst ranking ever.
Putnam County, once perennially among the top 10 best unemployment rates in the state, posted a 11.2 percent jobless mark during March 2011, according to Indiana Department of Workforce Development statistics.
The bad news for Putnam County is that although the March figure is better, it still leaves the county in the bottom 10.
That 11.2 figure ranks Putnam 83rd best -- or 8th worst (in a tie with Stark and Henry counties) -- among the 92 Hoosier counties. Only Fayette (12.5), Vermillion (11.7), Crawford (11.6), Tipton (11.4), Franklin (12.3 percent), Jennings (11.3) and Newton (11.3) ranked lower than Putnam County in the most recent statistical survey.
Daviess County in southern Indiana posted the best jobless rate for March at 5.3 percent. It had also been No. 1 in February.
Among neighboring counties, Hendricks continued to rank the best (13th overall) at 7.2 percent. Montgomery County was 28th at 8.3 percent, while Owen jumped to 32nd at 8.6 percent. Morgan (9.1 percent) was tied for 46th best and Parke was tied for 52nd best at 9.6 percent.
Clay County joined Putnam County in double digits at a 10.7 percent March rate that was good for 76th overall.
The Putnam County jobless rate figures to improve later this year with at least two Greencastle industries, Crown Equipment Corp. and Chiyoda, already having announced expansion projects and future employment additions. And at the April 12 City Council meeting, AIC started the process rolling to invest in new equipment that could ultimately mean more jobs.
The significance of the AIC project and Greencastle Development Center Director Bill Dory's presence at the meeting was not lost on Councilor Phyllis Rokicki. "It's nice to see you here for the third straight month," she told Dory.
"Hopefully," Dory responded, "this is a sign the economy is picking up."
Overall, Indiana's preliminary seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percent, to 8.5 percent in March. Indiana's rate is below the national average of 8.8 percent and below that of all neighboring states for the second month in a row. In addition, the state added 9,700 jobs in March.
Among neighboring states, Illinois is at 8.8 percent, Ohio is at 8.9, Kentucky is at 10.2 and Michigan recorded a 10.3 percent jobless rate last month.
"We haven't seen the unemployment rate drop by 1 percent in a quarter since 1993," said Mark W. Everson, Commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development. "We also saw solid job growth in March, particularly in the manufacturing sector."