INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) – Unemployment for December 2020 looked dramatically different from when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring as many counties in northeast Indiana reached “full employment” status.
“When I saw the record high unemployment rates in April, I really thought it was unrealistic that we would get back to full employment by year’s end, but I’m glad I was wrong. December 2020 had close to 2,400 more unemployed workers than December 2019 but the overall recovery is remarkable,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of the Purdue University Fort Wayne Community Research Institute.
Blakeman said that it’s like “we are living in two economies right now.” On one side of the economy, it looks much like it did prior to the pandemic – with the addition of masks, social distancing and working from home. The other side is seeing pre-pandemic economic struggles being amplified by job loss or fewer hours at work combined with the need to care for children during e-learning.
Overall, most counties in Northeast Indiana had a December unemployment rate below 5% which means full employment.
Allen, Wells and Whitley counties were the outliers in northeast Indiana in actually growing their labor force between December 2019 and December 2020. Other counties had smaller labor forces as compared to a year ago.
“Despite the fact that many people and businesses in northeast Indiana are still suffering economically as a result of the pandemic, there were some bright notes in 2020 on the workforce front,” said Rick Farrant, director of communications at Northeast Indiana Works.
Farrant said that many employers took advantage of an expanded Employer Training Grant program and more than 2,000 workers were signed up for short-term training opportunities that benefit both the employers and the employees.
In addition to training, employers in the manufacturing and healthcare industries continued to hire during the pandemic, according to Farrant.
“Clearly, northeast Indiana businesses and individuals have, to the best of their abilities, responded to the pandemic with courage and grit,” Farrant said.
Note: Purdue University Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana Works said the December numbers are preliminary and subject to revision when the final year-end data are released in March. All date from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.