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The Journal Gazette

May jobless rate inches up locally

Area numbers still better than state, national figures

Unemployment in metro Fort Wayne rose last month but still managed to stay well below 6 percent – beating the state and national averages.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development on Friday reported the region saw its jobless rate in May rise to 5.3 percent from 5 percent a month earlier. Fort Wayne’s metropolitan statistical area comprises Allen, Wells and Whitley counties.

Statewide, unemployment remained unchanged at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.7 percent, which state officials attribute to about 2,000 individuals returning to look for work.

Scott Sanders, workforce development commissioner, noted that the state’s labor force “has grown significantly” for eight consecutive months.

“This is not the case with some of our neighboring states who have experienced unemployment rate declines due to decreases in their labor force,” he said in a statement. “It is clear that Hoosiers are going back to work and that good jobs are available.”

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May also remained steady at 6.3 percent.

Unemployment in metro Fort Wayne was 7.1 percent a year ago in May. While the decrease in jobless numbers is encouraging, worker sentiment isn’t exactly glowing, local labor leader Tom Lewandowski said.

“We are in a new normal, and it isn’t very good,” said Lewandowski, president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

“If you ask people how the job market is they’ll probably (shrug). Many people have to work two jobs in order to make what they made at a job they lost,” he said. “So while the unemployment rate looks good, there’s more to it than that.”

States neighboring Indiana also didn’t experience any wild swings in seasonally adjusted unemployment in May. Ohio was 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in April; Michigan was 7.5 percent, up from 7.4 percent; Kentucky was unchanged in May at 7.7 percent; and Illinois was 7.5 percent, down from 7.9 percent.

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