Indiana’s unemployment rates drops for fifth straight month

Indiana’s unemployment rate has declined for a fifth straight month, even though the state lost jobs in September.

Indiana lost 13-thousand jobs last month, the first job loss since May. But the workforce shrank as well, so the unemployment rate fell two-tenths to six-point-two-percent. The jobless rate is lower than all Indiana’s neighbors and nearly two points below the national level of. seven-point-nine-percent. Unemployment has dropped by two-thirds since the spike caused by the pandemic lockdown, but it’s still at the highest level in six years, and double what it was before the pandemic.

Indiana Chamber president Kevin Brinegar says it’s been a K-shaped recovery — some business sectors are bouncing back, but others are at “the end of their rope” after relying on the federal Paycheck Protection Program to stay afloat. He says it’s disappointing that Congress has been unable to reach a deal on another round of assistance.

The unemployment report says most of Indiana’s job losses were in education, health and government jobs. Brinegar notes local governments must pass their budgets for the coming year by November 2, and speculates some cities and counties have cut jobs in anticipation of belt-tightening in 2021.

The monthly jobs report came out on the same day as the Chamber’s annual employer survey. The survey finds 22-percent of Indiana companies cut jobs because of the pandemic, and a third of them say they won’t be bringing everyone back. Another nine-percent expect layoffs next year. Brinegar says the pandemic has accelerated trends already in motion to rely more on automation and technology to take the place of workers, especially for low-skill tasks.

41-percent of employers expect to add jobs over the next two years, but that’s down from 45-percent on last year’s survey and 56-percent the year before.

Brinegar says even employers who are building back up are finding the same challenge they had before the pandemic: a shortage of workers with the skill sets they need. He says more than half the companies surveyed have increased worker training programs.

And about a third of businesses surveyed plan to continue having employees work from home. Brinegar says that could put a dent in the commercial real estate market.

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