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The Journal Gazette

Area joblessness up to 6.1%

Uptick still lower than national rate of 6.6%

Metro Fort Wayne didn’t follow suit, but sliding unemployment statewide and nationally offers hope.

Indiana’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate declined to 6.4 percent in January, compared to 6.8 percent in December. That’s the best showing in five years, state officials said Monday.

Nationwide, unemployment fell in 43 states in January as more Americans began looking for work and most quickly found jobs. The Labor Department said joblessness rose in just one state – Iowa – where the rate increased to 4.3 percent from 4.2 percent. Still, that’s below the national rate of 6.6 percent in January.

Metro Fort Wayne also beat the U.S. rate.

The metropolitan statistical area that comprises Allen, Wells and Whitley counties increased to 6.1 percent in January, compared with 5.9 percent a month earlier, according to figures Indiana Department of Workforce Development released Monday.

Human resources consultant John Dortch said the job picture is improving and his clients are proof.

“I was just talking about this with a (machine design and development company) and was telling them how full their parking lot was,” said Dortch, president and owner of the Preston Joan Group Inc. and president of the Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce.

“Things look promising and companies are hiring skilled, qualified and talented people,” he said.

Conditions are on an upswing, but Dortch said he isn’t ready to say the effects of the recession are in the rearview mirror.

“I would say we still need to be guarded, though,” he added.

State officials weren’t as cautious in assessing the outlook for Hoosiers.

“There are many positives to note this month,” Scott B. Sanders, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said in a statement. “Indiana’s unemployment rate is not only lower than our neighboring states, but the national rate as well.”

The overall U.S. unemployment rate has fallen 1 percentage point in the past 12 months.

Twenty-three states reported more hiring in January than December, while 27 said that the number of jobs fell. Harsh winter weather weighed on hiring nationwide, with employers adding just 129,000 jobs in January. That’s below the average monthly gain of about 180,000 in the previous two years.

Indiana’s neighboring states all saw seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreases in January.

Ohio was 6.9 percent, down from 7.1 percent in December; Kentucky was 7.7 percent, compared to 7.9 percent a month earlier; Michigan was 7.8 percent in January, compared to 8.3 percent in December; and Illinois had the highest joblessness in the region in January at 8.7 percent, down from 8.9 percent a month earlier.

Unemployment figures in the four Ohio counties bordering northeast Indiana will be released next Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.