The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 1:00 am

Area jobless rate down last month

Virus expected to make March figures climb

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

The jobless rate for the Fort Wayne metro area was 3.3% in February, slightly lower than the 3.5% for the same month a year, according to figures state workforce officials released Monday.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development said 7,349 people were unemployed in February out of a labor force of 219,880 in Allen, Wells and Whitley counties. The labor pool was smaller in February last year with 218,125 people and 7,701 unemployed.

In January, the metro area's jobless rate was 3.4%. Workforce experts say comparing the same month year over year provides a better picture of the job market due to seasonal employment variations.

“February was a healthy place in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana for job seekers,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne. “However, as last week's initial unemployment claims reflected, the job market is shifting dramatically this month as employers respond to the reality of the shelter-in-place order and altered spending habits.

“I cannot project what next month's numbers will be because the economy is changing so swiftly in response to the public health crisis,” she said.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits surged the week ending March 21, state officials announced last week. Allen County, for example, had 3,561 first-time filers compared to 115 initial claims the previous week.

For February, the metro area's unemployment was similar to what the state overall saw.

Indiana's jobless rate last month was 3.4%, down from 3.9% in February 2019 and from 3.6% in January this year. When seasonally adjusted, Indiana's February jobless rate was 3.1% compared to 3.5% in the same month last year. The state also had a 3.1% unemployment rate in January this year.

Crawford County has the highest jobless rate, 5.6% last month, among Indiana's 92 counties. Four counties tied for the lowest, Boone, Dubois, Hamilton and Martin, at 2.4%

Nationally, the February jobless rate was 3.8% compared to 4.1% a year ago. In January, it was 4%. Last month's seasonally adjusted rate was 3.5% nationally compared to 3.8% in February 2019. In January this year, it was 3.6%.

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