Figures recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that despite unemployment in Indiana being lower than this time last year, Newton County is still struggling with a 7.5% of their residents being without a job. This figure is in startling contrast to the state’s rate of 4.1%.
Of the seven counties that come under the Northwest region of Indiana, all but Newton County saw improvement in the number of jobs. Newton County’s rate, on the other hand, rose slightly in comparison to this time last year. All seven counties of the Northwest region recorded significantly higher rates of unemployment than the state’s rate of 4.1%. Rates of unemployment for the seven counties are as follows (from highest to lowest):
- Newton County 7.5%
- Lake County 6.7%
- LaPorte County 6.6%
- Starke County 6.4%
- Jasper County 6.3%
- Porter County 5.7%
- Pulaski County 5.4%
According to Indiana University Northwest’s assistant professor of economics Micah Pollack, the sparse population of Newton County provides a greater margin of error. With the small population of Newton County it could take as little as 20 people registering as unemployed to push the county unemployment rate up significantly, whereas in one of the other 6 Northwest counties it may take as many as 2000 people to cause the same percentage increase.
Purdue University Northwest ‘s Anthony Sindone, clinical assistant professor of finance and economic development, has said that farming and manufacturing offer the greatest employment opportunities in Newton County but that during 2015 and 2016 manufacturing suffered a bit of a downturn. This downturn may have caused residents of Newton County to move out of the area in search of employment. The population of the county has been steadily decreasing and the average age has been rising, both factors affecting unemployment rates.
According to a state report, between January and February Indiana’s labor force had increased by almost 8000. Employment has grown in the private sector, manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities but has decreased in hospitality and leisure. Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development Steven J Braun believes the growth in Indiana’s labor force is an encouraging sign but that further growth is required. He said that there are many well-paid jobs available throughout Indiana. Sindone said that both farming and manufacturing are going to face further loss of jobs as technology replaces the need for a human labor force.