(UNDATED) - For the first time in more than five years, Indiana's unemployment rate is below seven-percent.
The Department of Workforce Development says the unemployment rate in December was 6.9 percent, down from November's rate of 7.3 percent. The last time unemployment was this low was when the rate was 6.8 percent in October 2008. The rate dropped even though Indiana lost 4,800 private sector jobs in December and the labor force grew by 6,000. "The size of the work force is really what is keeping (Indiana's) unemployment rate high, because unlike the country as a whole which saw a dramatic decline in the number of people in the labor force last month, Indiana saw an increase," said Mike Hicks, an economist at Ball State University.
The drop in private sector jobs last month was not enough to offset November's enormous job gains - 25,000, and Hicks says unlike many states, most of the newer jobs created in Indiana are full-time jobs. "Jobs that are more likely to be permanent and are more likely to pay better. We're seeing a preponderance of jobs in manufacturing, logistics and business services," said Hicks. For all of 2013, the Department says Indiana created 42,600 private sector jobs, about the same as in 2012. "There are fewer Hoosiers unemployed (218,100) now than in the past five years," said Scott Sanders, Workforce Development Commissioner.
Hicks says there appears to be no one reason why Indiana's job market appears to be outperforming the nation as a whole. "States that are more solvent and that don't have a big fiscal problem looming over them have been more attractive places to relocate economic activity. So, this may be a really good time to get turned into a much more competitive taxing environment."
The state's unemployment rate is still above the national rate of 6.7 percent.
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