If the Putnam County jobless rate were a work zone, the sign of the times might well be: Under construction.
It continues, after all, to be a work in progress that has gotten progressively better each of the past two months.
Putnam County continued to post some major improvement on the unemployment front Friday as the Indiana Department of Workforce Development released its latest monthly jobless figures.
The latest Putnam rate of 7.0 percent for September represents nearly a one-point drop in the unemployment figure since August and its 7.9 percent local rate.
Preliminary numbers for September show the latest local jobless rate of 7.0 percent ties Putnam with Union, LaGrange and neighboring Morgan for 34th best among Indiana's 92 counties. That's more than a full point better than Indiana's overall 8.2 percent figure.
Meanwhile, that also keeps Putnam County in the top half of the state's unemployment rankings for a second straight reporting period after months of languishing near the bottom earlier this year. The July 2012 local jobless rate of 9.5 percent, for example, was 72nd best (or 21st worst).
The new 7.0 percent figure for September also ranks better than all other surrounding counties, with the exception of Hendricks, which perpetually lands in the top 10. That is no different again this month with Hendricks posting a 6.0 percent jobless rate, good for eighth overall.
Among other neighboring counties, Montgomery was at 7.6 percent for 55th overall in September, while Owen and Parke counties came in at 8.6 percent, tied for 68th overall.
Dropping into the bottom 10 for the month was Clay County at 9.3 percent, tied for the fifth worst jobless rate for September.
The state's best jobless rate still belongs to Dubois County at 4.9 percent, followed by Hamilton at 5.3 percent, Daviess and Barthol-omew at 5.4, Martin at 5.6, Boone at 5.8, Warrick at 5.9, Hendricks and Harrison at 6.0, with Warren, Switzerland, Pulaski, Knox and Jay all tied for 10th at 6.1.
Joining Clay County at the bottom for September are Sullivan County at 10.9 percent, followed by Vermillion (10.3), Fayette (10.0), Lawrence (9.8), Clay, Miami and Wayne at 9.3, Blackford (9.1), Henry and Newton at 9.0, rounding out the bottom 10 counties.
Indiana's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent in September, down from 8.3 percent in August. That marks the first decline in the rate since April.
Indiana also recorded its first increase in the labor force in seven months, signaling more Hoosiers may be encouraged by strong job growth throughout the year and are again looking for work.
While Indiana's rate of unemployment decreased in September, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the Hoosier state shed 6,000 private sector jobs, the first monthly decline in nearly a year.
For September, Indiana (at 8.2 percent) fared better than all neighboring counties except Ohio (7.0). Kentucky was at 8.4, Illinois at 8.8 and Michigan at 9.3.
Despite September losses, private sector jobs in Indiana have grown by more than 43,000 in 2012 and continue to outpace the national rate of growth for the year (1.8 percent verses 1.2 percent).
"I find it particularly encouraging that Hoosiers are returning to the labor force," said Scott B. Sanders, commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development. "Indiana also continues to outpace the nation in rate of private sector job growth and state continued unemployment insurance claims are at their lowest level since 2000."
Employment sectors in Indiana that continue to exceed the national rate of growth in 2012 include manufacturing (2.8 percent versus 1.1 percent), private educational and health services (2.3 percent versus 1.6 percent), construction (4.0 percent versus -0.4 percent) and leisure and hospitality (2.2 percent versus 1.5 percent).