NE Indiana seeing slow, but steady job growth in May jobs report

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – More people went back to work in northeast Indiana throughout May, yet many employers still find themselves looking to fill open jobs.

According to Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development, Fort Wayne and Allen County saw a slight uptick in the labor force from April to May. The labor force consists of both employed and unemployed workers. All northeast Indiana counties saw an unemployment rate at or below the state rate of 4.5%.

County unemployment rate map. All northeast Indiana counties were at or below the state rate of 4.5%. Source: Indiana Department of Workforce Development

Rachel Blakeman from Purdue Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute says this growth is common during a non-pandemic year. With school wrapping up around this time, more high school and college students are often starting summer jobs.

Labor ForceEmployedUnemployedUnemployment rate
Fort Wayne MSAMay 2020212,027183,03128,99613.7
April 2021215,458206,6978,7614.1
May 2021218,340209,0209,3204.3
Fort Wayne saw a slightly larger labor force in May compared to April 2021. Labor numbers tend to be higher starting in May as students get out of school and look for a summer job. Source: Indiana Department of Workforce Development

At the same time, it is likely that more people felt comfortable going back to work as vaccines became more accessible.

“What we’re already seeing in the May numbers were people were ready to go back to work,” Blakeman said.

Despite the increase in the labor force, several employers in northeast Indiana are still looking to fill open positions. Blakeman believes employers may be more willing to look at all types of applicants.

“I would expect that the folks who have entered the labor market, who were reflected to be unemployed in May are likely to be employed and working now,” Blakeman said. “What we’re seeing is a lot of employers are willing to look at and hire candidates who may not have been as attractive 18 months ago.”

Employers and the state government have stepped in to address this labor shortage. Since data for the monthly jobs report was collected in early May, many employers have raised their wages. Meanwhile, Indiana reimplemented a work search requirement for those collecting unemployment insurance.

Blakeman is also keeping an eye on parents who may have temporarily left the workforce to take care of kids who were e-learning this past year. With schools anticipated to go back to all in-person learning, she wonders if these families will revert to what they were doing before the pandemic.

“Did those women decide to stay out of the labor market throughout the summer? Do they re-enter the labor market, do they want to go back to paid employment? Or has it been a long enough period where those households have figured out how to make do with one salary or one and a half salaries?

Blakeman says we will have a better idea on whether all of these moves result in a larger labor force later this summer, perhaps not until July.

Read the full employment report from Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development here.

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