Falling jobless rate presents a challenge

Friday, May 26, 2017

Too much of a good thing?

That’s one way of looking at the startling new unemployment figures revealed for Putnam County and Indiana as a whole.

Latest figures released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development show Putnam County with a 2.7 percent unemployment rate for April. That’s a significant drop from March when after Putnam posted a 4.1 percent mark.

The April figure puts Putnam County in a tie for 50th best among Indiana’s 92 counties. But it also may put some employers in a pinch when it comes to hiring possibilities.

The low jobless rates might seem like a good problem for Indiana to have but DWD Commissioner Steven J. Braun explains that fewer people out of work means a shallower pool of talent from which businesses can hire.

“It’s very good news, but it also presents some significant challenges,” he said.

Local business owners -- especially those in food service -- already have been noticing an increase in job-hopping by workers. That amounts to companies essentially trading employees since an influx of new workers coming into the Putnam County area has not been occurring recently.

So that 2.7 percent Putnam jobless mark doesn’t leave much of a pool of job-seekers locally. After all, most economic experts subscribe to the theory that any jobless figure below four percent essentially represents the chronically unemployed. Those are basically people whose job search is undermined by lack of transportation or child-care issues or those who know they cannot pass a necessary drug screen in order to be hired.

“Indiana’s unemployment rate reaching its lowest point since 2001 is a testament to the strength of the Hoosier economy,” Braun said. “However, it’s also indicative of an ever-tightening labor market for Hoosier businesses. I encourage unemployed and underemployed Hoosiers to be steadfast in their job searches and consider training and placement opportunities available at their local WorkOne Career Center.”

Meanwhile, again this month the Putnam jobless number is better than all other west-central Indiana counties -- Clay (2.9), Parke (3.2), Vigo (3.3), Owen (3.4), Sullivan (3.5), Greene (3.7) and Vermillion (4.3).

And with the exception of Parke (16th worst) and Clay (26th worst), the other neighboring west-central counties all find themselves lingering in the bottom 10 of the state rankings for April. That includes Vermillion and Greene, which posted the state’s worst and fourth worst unemployment figures at 4.3 and 3.7 percent, respectively. Sullivan is seventh worst at 3.5 percent, while Owen is tied for eighth worst at 3.4 percent.

Among contiguous counties north and east of Putnam, Hendricks is again tops with a ranking among Indiana’s best at 2.2 percent, only good for a tie for 11th in the state for April. Meanwhile, Montgomery County is in a tie for 20th best at 2.3, and Morgan persists in the top half of the state rankings at 2.6 percent, which translates to a tie for 44th.

The top 10 Indiana county unemployment rates for April are (in order): LaGrange, Elkhart and Dubois (all 1.9), Hamilton, Kosciusko, Daviess, Bartholomew and Adams (all tied at 2.0), followed by Union and Boone tied for 10th spot at 2.1 percent.

At the opposite end of the jobless spectrum, the state’s bottom 10 is topped by Vermillion County at 4.3 percent, followed by Lake (4.1), Newton (3.9), Fayette and Greene (3.7), LaPorte (3.6) and Sullivan (3.5) with Crawford, Jasper, Lawrence and Owen counties tied at 3.4.

Indiana’s jobless rate for April was 2.7 percent, or 3.6 percent seasonally adjusted. In April 2016, it was 4.5 percent for the state or 4.7 percent seasonally adjusted.

The April Hoosier unemployment rate was lower than neighboring states of Kentucky (5.1 percent), Ohio (5.0 percent), Michigan (4.7 percent) and Illinois (4.7 percent).

Nationally, the April jobless figure was 4.1 percent, or 4.4 percent seasonally adjusted, compared with 4.7 percent a year ago in April, or 5.0 percent seasonally adjusted.

Indiana unemployment rates for May are scheduled to be released June 16.

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