Allen and all eight counties surrounding it reported lower jobless rates in September than the state average rate of 4 percent. Adams was the lowest of the nine at 3.1 percent, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said Wednesday. Indiana, in turn, reported lower unemployment than the national average.
When adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, the state’s unemployment rate of 4.5 percent matched or beat the rates reported by neighboring states as well. Ohio’s rate was 4.5 percent; Michigan and Kentucky’s was 5.0 percent; and Illinois’ was 5.4 percent.
The U.S. rate was 5.1 percent. Nationwide, the jobless rates ranged last month from 2.9 percent in Nebraska to 7.3 percent in West Virginia.
The Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area reported a 3.8 percent jobless rate in September. That number was not adjusted for seasonal variation because the amount of data was too small to allow for an accurate calculation. The MSA’s unemployment rate was 4.1 percent the previous month and 5 percent in September 2014.
Fort Wayne’s MSA comprises Allen, Wells and Whitley counties.
Valerie Richardson, research associate in the Community Research Institute at IPFW, said workforce development professionals in the region aren’t sure why total labor force participation rates are relatively low despite low unemployment.
One theory, she said, is that many people are waiting on the sidelines, ready to jump back into the labor pool once wages increase.
Baby boomer retirement is also a contributing factor. And Richardson speculated that the most recent minimum wage increase might have reduced the number of some jobs, contributing to the lower employment numbers among some teen workers.
When the unemployment rate falls below 4 percent, a region is often said to be at full employment because a lower percentage of joblessness is inevitable as people transition from school to work or follow a spouse to a new location.
Although full employment sounds positive for workers and can drive up wages, it can also dampen employers’ expansion plans if they can’t find enough trained workers to fill open positions.
Richardson said northeast Indiana’s efforts to attract and retain millennial talent could help address the worker shortfall that threatens growth potential.