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The Journal Gazette

5.9% jobless rate lowest since ’08

Unemployment in metro Fort Wayne experienced a significant drop from 6.7 percent in November to 5.9 percent in December.

Nice way to end the year? Well, maybe.

Ellen Cutter, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW, said major reasons behind the lower jobless rate include people who gave up looking for work and others whose unemployment benefits ran out.

“But it isn’t just our area,” she said. “It’s happening all over the country.”

The Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area includes Allen, Wells and Whitley counties. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development released the data Tuesday that showed unemployment statewide dropped to 6.9 percent last month, compared with 7.3 percent in November.

Last month, long-term jobless benefits expired, affecting 19,000 Hoosiers. Though they can no longer collect federal benefits checks, it doesn’t mean they all found jobs. Cutter said that has to be taken into account.

“These are dynamics that most states are dealing with, so it really is a bigger issue,” she said. “This is something we need to keep our eye on as the year goes on.”

Cutter said a long-term view shows metro Fort Wayne improving as it ended December 2012 with 8.2 percent unemployment. “So from that point of view, we are definitely better off,” she said.

The last time unemployment was below 6 percent in metro Fort Wayne was October 2008. But there are other variables at play, which makes it hard to declare an outright victory over unemployment, officials said.

State leaders are pleased nonetheless.

“There are fewer Hoosiers unemployed (218,100) now than in the past five years,” Scott B. Sanders, commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development, said in a statement. “Just as important is the fact more than 21,000 folks have returned to the labor force over the past three months, which is unique in the Midwest.”

Regionally, the jobless rate fell last month in each of the four states bordering Indiana. Ohio had the lowest unemployment, 7.2 percent, down from 7.4 percent in November. Joblessness in Kentucky was 8 percent in December, compared with 8.2 percent in November; Michigan decreased to 8.4 percent from 8.8 percent; and Illinois declined to 8.6 percent in December from 8.7 percent a month earlier.

Unemployment figures in the four Ohio counties bordering northeast Indiana also were released Tuesday. Paulding and Van Wert were 6.1 percent, compared with 6.6 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. Defiance stood at 6.2 percent in December, down from 6.8 percent; and Williams was 6.4 percent, down from 7 percent.