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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Elliott Gray, left, chats with Diana Godinez of Leaders Staffing about manufacturing jobs at a recent job fair sponsored by IPFW and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd.

Metro jobless rate hits 8.5%

0.3-point increase in July hints tough search, tepid hiring

The Journal Gazette

Unemployment in metro Fort Wayne increased to 8.5 percent in July as more local Hoosiers had a tough time finding work.

The Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area consists of Allen, Wells and Whitley counties. The region had an 8.2 percent jobless rate in June.

The rest of the state held steady at a seasonally adjusted rate of 8.4 percent in July, the same as June, according to preliminary figures released Monday from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

“The trade, transportation and utilities sector experienced the largest one-month growth since 1990,” Scott B. Sanders, commissioner of the department, said in a statement.

“Initial claims for unemployment insurance in 2013 have been at their lowest levels since 2000, the peak of employment in the Hoosier State.”

Private-sector employment in Indiana reached 2.52 million, the highest since July 2008 when the number of workers was 2.53 million.

While those statistics are worth noting, analyst John Kessler said doubt will continue to dog the labor market. The director of the Center for Economic Education at IPFW said local companies remain jittery about the Affordable Care Act and other issues.

“Anything that causes uncertainty plays a role,” Kessler said.

Despite being given an extra year to prepare, employers remain uneasy about the federal health care overhaul that will require businesses with 50 or more employees to provide health care coverage or pay a penalty starting in 2015, he said.

“They just don’t know what to expect,” Kessler said.

Huntington County, unfortunately, knew what to expect when Good Humor-Breyers factory announced in June that the plant would close, putting 140 people out of work. The county saw unemployment rise from 8.5 percent in June to 9.4 percent in July – the highest in northeast Indiana.

Other factors contributing to the region’s unemployment are students returning to school after holding summer jobs, Kessler said.

Regionally, July seasonally adjusted unemployment in Ohio remained unchanged from a month earlier at 7.2 percent. Illinois had the four-state area’s highest jobless rate, 9.2 percent, up from 9.1 percent in June. Unemployment also rose in Michigan and Kentucky to 8.8 percent in July, from 8.7 percent in June and 8.5 percent from 8.4 percent, respectively.

Jobless figures in the four Ohio counties bordering northeast Indiana – Defiance, Paulding, Van Wert and Williams – will be released today.