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The Journal Gazette

Metro jobless rate at 7.6%

Slight drop runs counter to state

While many metro areas saw unemployment inch up last month, Fort Wayne bucked the trend as joblessness dipped slightly to 7.6 percent in July from 7.7 percent in June, Indiana Department of Workforce Development figures showed Friday.

The Fort Wayne metropolitan area consists of Allen, Whitley and Wells counties. Unemployment was 8.9 percent a year ago in July.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 8.2 percent in July, compared with 8 percent in June.

John Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW, is cautious about July’s apparent unemployment drop. He said the number of people in Fort Wayne’s labor force declined, which skews the results.

“We may have lower unemployment, but not for the reasons we’d like,” Stafford said.

The Fort Wayne area had about 218,700 people in the labor force in June, compared with 216,000 in July. Looking at the figures that way “means the unemployment rate really was about flat in July,” Stafford said.

But Workforce Development Commissioner Scott Sanders is questioning data from the federal government used to calculate Indiana’s July unemployment numbers.

“We have raised several questions with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics about discrepancies in June and July’s labor force data,” Sanders said in a statement Friday. “The numbers seem to indicate nearly 46,000 Hoosiers went from gainfully employed in May to missing from the labor force in July, with no explanation.”

Sanders also said that while monthly data are volatile, the more reliable long-term numbers show Indiana is still significantly outperforming the U.S. average in nearly every employment sector this year.

Regionally, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in July compared with a month earlier rose in Illinois, 8.9 percent from 8.7 percent; Kentucky, 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent; and Michigan, 9 percent from 8.6 percent.

Ohio was unchanged at 7.2 percent. The July data for the four Ohio counties bordering northeast Indiana – Defiance, Paulding, Van Wert and Williams – will be released in about a week.