More northeast Indiana residents are getting behind the wheel and crossing county lines for work, new census figures suggest.
Since 2000, most northeast Indiana counties have recorded a slight uptick in the number of residents who work out of county.
In fact, census estimates show that more than half of Whitley County residents now work elsewhere.
A similar trend is also seen nationally. During the 2006-10 period, 27.4 percent of workers traveled outside their residence county for work, compared with 26.7 percent in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The data are from the American Community Survey’s 2006-10 estimates released this week. The ACS is an ongoing statistical survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year.
In northeast Indiana it’s a mixed bag.
About 9 percent of Allen County residents work elsewhere, a number that has not changed over the years. Those 15,000 workers are offset by the more than 30,000 who commute into the county.
Of those coming to Allen County for work, about eight in 10 live in adjacent counties, including those in Ohio. Many come from DeKalb and Whitley counties.
The numbers suggest more workers are traveling from DeKalb to Allen than in 2000 and fewer Allen residents are making the reverse trip. Because of the margin of error inherent in the numbers, there doesn’t appear to be any significant statistical change in Whitley-Allen commutes.
John Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW, describes northeast Indiana workers as becoming a more regional workforce.
This is probably due to some key high wage employers being scattered across the region, such as the Steel Dynamics facilities in DeKalb and Whitley counties, Stafford responded in an email. Secondly, we are beginning to see the metro housing base expanding beyond Allen County, particularly into DeKalb and Whitley counties.
Stafford also pointed to changes in the delivery of health care – particularly with hospital systems in Allen County becoming more integrated – and growth at the General Motors plant as factors that could alter commute patterns.
About three years ago, the Fort Wayne GM factory announced it would add a third shift to its truck assembly plant near Roanoke, bringing about 1,000 new jobs. Many of those were filled by workers who transferred from other GM plants.
A little more than half of GM’s 3,800 workers live outside Allen County, according to Gary Schepp, a GM retiree who works with UAW Local 2209.
The census estimates offer no surprise that some of the largest numbers of people going outside their county to work were on the East and West coasts, around New York City and Los Angeles.
Yet, one of the highest county-to-county commute rates is in Indiana. Four of nine workers in Hamilton County – about 58,900, or nearly half – travel south to adjacent Marion County, home to Indianapolis. That rate ranks Hamilton sixth among the nation’s counties that serve as bedroom communities.
In fact, Marion County has among the highest number of commuters coming from another county in the nation. More than 205,000 people who work in Marion live outside the county, according to the Census Bureau.