Indiana’s unemployment rate hit a fifth straight record low last month, at two-point-three-percent.
After record high unemployment at the start of the pandemic, the jobless rate has dropped steadily for nearly two years. The rate matched the 22-year-old record of two-point-eight-percent in October, and has continued to fall since then.
Indiana added nearly 16,000 jobs in February, but the plunging unemployment rate is partly due to fewer people looking for work. The state’s labor force still hasn’t quite caught up to where it was before the pandemic, while employment is still 49-thousand jobs short of the pre-pandemic peak. Ball State economist Michael Hicks notes three-thousand working-age Hoosiers are permanently gone from the workforce because they’re dead of COVID. And he says other workers haven’t reentered the market yet for fear of another round of school closures that would leave them scrambling to take care of their kids.
But Hicks says the labor market is clearly strengthening. He anticipates continued economic growth in the months ahead, though he cautions uncertainty and supply-chain disruptions from Russia’s war in Ukraine could still jolt the economy.
At this point, Hicks says, Indiana’s workforce challenges are the same ones employers had before the pandemic: a shortage of skilled workers stemming from the state’s low education levels. A third of the new jobs in February were in professional and business services, and Hicks says he suspects many of those are temp workers plugging manpower shortages on what amounts to a tryout basis, with companies assessing whether they’d be able to handle the job permanently.