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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, June 19, 2018 1:00 am

Local unemployment ticks higher

Rises to 3 percent; 'there's plenty of work to be had'

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne MSA's jobless rate inched up to 3.0 percent in May, 0.4 percentage point higher than April's 2.6 percent, according to data the Indiana Department of Workforce Development released Monday.

The number of people in the labor force, the number employed and the number unemployed all increased last month compared to April. The same is true of last month's data as compared to May 2017.

Those numbers could be driven by recent college graduations, people moving into the area and people previously on the sidelines deciding to look for work.

John Kessler, director of the Center for Economic Education at IPFW, reviewed Monday's unemployment report and said the data are a sign of a strong economy.

He pointed to the growing labor market.

“If they didn't think there was work out there, they wouldn't even bother to look,” he said of some newcomers.

Indiana's unemployment rate increased 0.3 percentage point to 3.2 percent from 2.9 percent in April. The national rate in May was 3.6 percent before seasonal adjustments were made.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 3.8 percent. The state rate of 3.2 percent was unchanged by seasonal adjustments.

MSA data are too small for experts to accurately apply adjustments based on seasonal hiring patterns, officials say. Allen, Wells and Whitley counties comprise the Fort Wayne MSA.

The local MSA labor force increased by 2,397 to 218,725 in May, as compared with April. When compared to May 2017, the labor force increased by almost 5,700 people.

The local MSA's jobless rate was 2.9 percent in May a year ago, just a tick below the most recent reading. Officials say the most accurate comparisons are year-to-year because of seasonal fluctuations, which could include a surge of college graduates.

“A 3 percent unemployment rate is still really, really good,” Kessler said.

How good depends on your role in the job market.

“From an employer's perspective, this is a tight labor market, and you'll have to pay a wage premium to fill a job,” Kessler said.

When unemployment is high, employers typically receive numerous applications from well-qualified candidates. When it's low, like now, employers have to pay more to find qualified workers or pay to train underqualified applicants.

That's good news for the unemployed.

“If you want a job,” Kessler said, “there's plenty of work to be had.”

sslater@jg.net