The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, August 24, 2021 1:00 am

Jobless rate falls as labor force shrinks

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne MSA's jobless rate was 3.9% last month, 0.5 percentage point lower than June, according to data released Monday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The local MSA's labor force dropped by 2,752 people during that one-month span, to 217,929 in July. The labor force includes the employed and those actively looking for work.

The local metropolitan statistical area comprises Allen, Wells and Whitley counties.

Allen reported northeast Indiana's highest unemployment rate at 4.1%. Adams had the region's – and the state's – lowest rate at 2.4%. Indiana's non-seasonally adjusted rate was 4.2% in July. After adjustments, it was 4.1%. The national adjusted rate was 5.4%.

Experts say year-to-year comparisons are the most accurate because they eliminate seasonal fluctuations. The pandemic and its effects on the labor market have upended that conventional wisdom, however.

The July 2020 data show almost 10,900 fewer people employed and about 11,350 more people looking for work than last month. Those numbers align with expectations. What's surprising, however, is that the labor force included almost 500 more people in July 2020 than in July 2021. 

Rick Farrant, Northeast Indiana Works' spokesman, acknowledged the shrinking labor force in emailed comments.

“... We have got to get more people back into the workforce. The demand for workers across most industries has not diminished and may be escalating,” Farrant said in a statement.

Rachel Blakeman, director of Purdue University Fort Wayne's Community Research Institute, reviewed the data and noted one-month changes in northeast Indiana counties' labor force numbers.

Adams, Huntington and Steuben counties showed increases, while DeKalb, Grant, Noble, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties had smaller labor forces in the course of about 30 days.

Farrant asked those sitting on the sidelines to get to work.

“The economy is calling on us loud and clear, within the construct of responsible lifestyle behavior, to participate and be productive,” he said.

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