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The Journal Gazette

Area sees big drop in jobless rate to 7%

A notable drop in the number of people without work in August has job market analysts wondering if the retreat is for real.

Unemployment in metro Fort Wayne decreased to 7 percent last month from 8.5 percent in July, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area consists of Allen, Wells and Whitley counties. The region had an 8.2 percent jobless rate in August 2012, which caught the eye of Ellen Cutter, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW.

“The longer-term view shows very strong progress,” she said. “Our workforce figures are still down 20,000 from pre-recession levels, … but this is a very positive month. As always, though, we have to say this with a grain of salt and with the disclaimer to wait until the next month because the numbers are preliminary.”

Hoosiers statewide saw unemployment decline to a seasonally adjusted 8.1 percent in August from 8.4 percent in July. Officials said despite lower unemployment and increases in manufacturing, Indiana’s private sector as a whole declined by 2,900 jobs last month as losses in the trade, transportation and utilities and construction sectors offset gains.

“The significant decrease in Indiana’s unemployment rate in August is definitely encouraging, but the fact is too many Hoosiers are still unemployed,” Scott B. Sanders, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said in a statement. “This underscores the need to bring unemployed individuals into WorkOne following their fourth week of receiving benefits. It is vital we get folks on the path to reemployment as soon as possible.”

Ball State University economist Michael Hicks said the state economy is creating jobs, although its joblessness is less than desirable.

“Our rate remains high because Indiana’s workforce is expanding as more people are looking for jobs,” he said in an email.

Regionally, seasonally adjusted unemployment for August remained unchanged in Illinois from a month earlier at 9.2 percent – the four-state area’s highest rate. Joblessness increased in Michigan and Ohio, 9 percent from 8.8 percent and 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent.

Only Kentucky saw a decline in unemployment in August, dropping to 8.4 percent from 8.5 percent in July.

Jobless statistics for the four Ohio counties bordering northeast Indiana – Defiance, Paulding, Van Wert and Williams – will be released Tuesday.