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The Journal Gazette

Area joblessness declines

Local expert foresees fluctuations

– The job market may be nip and tuck now, but the struggle means a facelift in the months ahead, a local economy analyst says.

Unemployment in metro Fort Wayne retreated to 8.4 percent in February from 9 percent in January, a report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development showed Friday.

The Fort Wayne metropolitan area consists of Allen, Whitley and Wells counties. Unemployment in the region also is lower than a year ago February when the rate was 9.5 percent.

Statewide, seasonally adjusted jobless figures show Indiana also experienced a dip in February, to 8.4 percent, against 8.7 percent the previous month.

John Kessler, director of the Center for Economic Education at IPFW, said he expects unemployment to continue to drop as the economy improves – although at times it may seem as though progress is one step forward, two steps back.

“People who have been saying, ‘things are bad, so why even bother looking for a job’ have started looking for work again,” he said. “That might cause unemployment to go up some months, but it does show there is confidence because they’re looking again.”

The Fort Wayne metro area had a labor force of 213,727 people in February, a 4 percent increase from February 2011 when more than 205,000 people were either working or seeking a job.

Mark Everson, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said he is pleased more workers believe in the labor market.

“We … continue to see Hoosiers return to the workforce,” he said in a statement Friday. “Since February 2011, Indiana’s labor force grew by 40,600 or 1.3 percent, outpacing the national growth and in sharp contrast to our neighboring states that saw their labor forces shrink.”

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in Indiana’s bordering states dropped in February, compared with a month earlier. Ohio declined to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent; Michigan, 8.8 percent from 9 percent; Illinois, 9.1 percent from 9.4 percent; and Kentucky, 8.7 percent from 8.8 percent.

Kessler said political uncertainty is having a bearing on companies’ hiring intentions, but once the presidential election is over “we’ll see things accelerate a little bit.”

“They are holding on, waiting to see what happens,” he said. “Businesses are concerned about what type of regulations will be in place. They will have a clearer picture after the election.”

Some companies are already expressing optimism, as demonstrated earlier this week when Android Industries announced it plans to invest $7.3 million and create 66 jobs in southwest Allen County. Hourly pay will range from $10 to $22.

The Auburn Hills, Mich., auto supplier is asking job candidates to visit WorkOne Northeast, 201 E. Rudisill Blvd., or go to