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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:55 pm

County's job gains rival those of '90s, researchers report

Dave Gong The Journal Gazette

Every industry sector in Allen County in 2014 posted about 3 percent job growth over 2013.

Presenting the quarterly Allen County Insight report to the Allen County commissioners Friday, Ellen Cutter, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW, said the number of jobs in industries such as manufacturing, health care, administrative and waste services increased between 2013 and 2014. 

The Community Research Institute maintains community statistics to track the county’s performance and growth. 

"Manufacturing is continuing to add a huge number of jobs to the Allen County economy," Cutter said. "Other sectors like technical services and health care are also performing strongly as well."

The increase in the number of jobs also benefited Allen County’s labor force. 

Cutter said the county’s labor force in December 2014 increased by 3.4 percent from December 2013 – higher than state and national increases.

Indiana reported a 2.8 percent increase in December 2014, while national numbers show a 0.7 percent increase. 

"You’d have to go back to the mid-’90s to get a one-year labor force growth rate that strong in Allen County," Cutter said.

"So this is the best that we’ve seen in 20 years – our employment growth rate has surpassed the state and the nation."

The Allen County Insight study tracks the number of people who are employed, as well as people who are unemployed and actively seeking work to determine the county’s labor force, Cutter said. What the study doesn’t measure is the number of people who have been unemployed for a long period of time, have retired, or choose not to work. 

"The ways the labor force can grow is through an increase in the number of jobs available and how those jobs may be able to lure some of those workers who haven’t been engaged in the workforce back into the workforce," she said.

Commissioner Nelson Peters said he was encouraged to hear that Allen County has had one if its best years in some time.

"The fact that we ought to be able to move that hourly wage rate needle closer to the national average, there’s certainly nothing discouraging about that," he said.

Peters noted that the county’s use of tax phase-ins, tax increment financing districts and shovel-ready sites has all contributed to the county’s increases in job growth and labor force growth.

"The preparations we’ve had in terms of the entire effort is one that is beginning to pay dividends, and that showed up in (Cutter’s) report today," he said.

The latest issue of Allen County Insight also focuses on agriculture and its role in the county economy, Cutter said.

Allen County is the third most populated county in Indiana and ranks 10th of the state’s 92 counties in agricultural production.

"I think that’s really telling in terms of how diverse our community really is, and that urban-to-rural spectrum," she said. 

The county is also in the top 10 percent of counties nationwide for grain production, which Cutter said is unusual for an urban county. What’s particularly unusual, Cutter said, is that Allen County ranks in the top 2 percent of counties in the country for horse, mule and pony ownership. 

"There are a lot of people (in Allen County who) have a few horses, it’s not as if there’s some huge facility you can drive by that makes an impact," she said. "But rates of horse ownership are relatively high in Allen County."

Allen County’s Amish population, as well as the county’s size in terms of acreage, are two factors that could contribute to such a high rate of equine ownership, Cutter said.

Peters said Cutter’s agricultural findings weren’t surprising, except for the fact that the county wasn’t rated any higher in respect to hogs and swine. 

"(Allen County) is not only a fairly big urban center but a big agricultural center," he said.

"If you look at eastern Allen County, it in and of itself is bigger than most counties in the state of Indiana, so we should be fairly high in all agricultural aspects, including horses and ponies."

dgong@jg.net