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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, October 06, 2018 1:00 am

Furthermore ...

More local signs reflect economy on a roll

Positive economic news is best when it's close to home. Fort Wayne had two examples of that this past week.

• Hourly, private-sector wages in the Fort Wayne Metropolitan Statistical Area grew by 12.2 percent over the past five years, adjusted for inflation.

• The city's office space vacancy rate decreased from about 14 percent to just less than 11 percent, with a vacancy rate downtown of just 6.89 percent.

Both are encouraging signs of a robust local economy. The area's wage-growth rate was the second-highest in the state – behind only Lafayette-West Lafayette, at 15.6 percent. Fort Wayne's average hourly wage of $25.68 still lags top-performing Indianapolis, at $27.43, and the national hourly average wage of $27.16, but it's moving in the right direction.

“Considering we were at a 7 percent unemployment rate in August 2013 and down to 3.4 percent last month in the Fort Wayne MSA, the tightening labor market could be helping to drive wage growth in this area,” Rachel Blakeman, director of the Purdue University Fort Wayne Community Research Institute, told The Journal Gazette's Ron Shawgo.

The Zacher Company's annual Office Market Survey is another positive indicator. In four of the past five years, the city's marketwide vacancy rate has fallen. In 2009, reflecting the depths of the Great Recession, the downtown vacancy rate was 18.8 percent. The dramatic decline in the downtown rate is strong evidence that public investment in the central city is paying off.