MARCUS: State moves forward, with long way to go

Morton Marcus
January 1, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Morton Marcus

Congratulations to Gov. Mitch Daniels and his administration on their development and implementation of the Indiana Transparency Portal. It’s a grand start to detailed information about state and local government activities.

My hope is that this effort will continue during and beyond this administration. It is not easy, inexpensive or comfortable for governments to expose their finances and operations to the public. A new administration could easily drop the good advances made by this administration in the past six years.

Before my friends in state government become too comfortable, let me suggest there is much they could do in the coming year that would improve our knowledge and understanding of our state: In addition to making public much more information than is now available (are you listening, Department of Revenue?), they could “work” the data they do release.

Take a simple example from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development—the source of most of the economic data about the state. We learn the unemployment rate for each county each month. How many counties are experiencing rising or falling rates, with plus or minus 0.1 percent considered as unchanged? Between November 2009 and the same month in 2010, 34 Indiana counties had rising unemployment rates, while 44 declined and 14 remained unchanged. This is basically good news.

The headlines reported, appropriately, that the state’s unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) was unchanged at 9.4 percent. But that hides the fact that the employment picture improved in almost half of the state’s 92 counties.

In 2009, the range between the highest unemployment rate (15.1 percent in Elkhart County) and the lowest (5.4 percent in Daviess) was 9.7 percentage points. That range narrowed in 2010 to 7.6 points, as Elkhart’s rate fell to 13.3 percent and Daviess’ rose to 5.7 percent.

Over the course of the business cycle to date, November 2007 to November 2010, Monroe County has been least affected, with a rise in its unemployment rate of just 2.7 percentage points; Elkhart, by contrast, was the hardest-hit, rising 8.7 points.

In a national perspective, our November 2010 unemployment rate ranked Indiana 12th-highest in the country, tied with Idaho and Tennessee. The same 9.4-percent rate, a year earlier, was 17th-highest in the United States. Over that one year, our unemployment rate remained unchanged, but our relative position worsened.

When the recent recession started in November 2007, the Hoosier unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, with the nation standing at 4.5 percent. In the latest November data, we were at 9.4 percent and the country sat at 9.3 percent. These small differences between Indiana and the United States make it look as though we and the nation are tracking along together. 

A deeper look tells a different story. In 2007, only 29 of Indiana’s 92 counties had unemployment rates greater than the national figure. Let’s call these 29 counties those with “high” unemployment rates because they were more than 0.1 percent above the national rate. By 2010, Indiana had 49 counties with “high” unemployment rates. Of these 49 counties, 26 were “high” also in 2007. Only Greene, Owen and Ohio counties escaped from the “high” group of 2007.

These simple descriptive statistics could be used by DWD regularly to tell the story of Indiana’s battle with unemployment. But there is a problem with knowing such data—someone might think the state has a responsibility to be aware of what’s happening and to do something about it. Such thinking and such expectations might disturb those who prefer “calm waters.”•


Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am not by any means judging whether this is a good or bad project. It's pretty simple, the developers are not showing a hardship or need for this economic incentive. It is a vacant field, the easiest for development, and the developer already has the money to invest $26 million for construction. If they can afford that, they can afford to pay property taxes just like the rest of the residents do. As well, an average of $15/hour is an absolute joke in terms of economic development. Get in high paying jobs and maybe there's a different story. But that's the problem with this ask, it is speculative and users are just not known.

  2. Shouldn't this be a museum

  3. I don't have a problem with higher taxes, since it is obvious that our city is not adequately funded. And Ballard doesn't want to admit it, but he has increased taxes indirectly by 1) selling assets and spending the money, 2) letting now private entities increase user fees which were previously capped, 3) by spending reserves, and 4) by heavy dependence on TIFs. At the end, these are all indirect tax increases since someone will eventually have to pay for them. It's mathematics. You put property tax caps ("tax cut"), but you don't cut expenditures (justifiably so), so you increase taxes indirectly.

  4. Marijuana is the safest natural drug grown. Addiction is never physical. Marijuana health benefits are far more reaching then synthesized drugs. Abbott, Lilly, and the thousands of others create poisons and label them as medication. There is no current manufactured drug on the market that does not pose immediate and long term threat to the human anatomy. Certainly the potency of marijuana has increased by hybrids and growing techniques. However, Alcohol has been proven to destroy more families, relationships, cause more deaths and injuries in addition to the damage done to the body. Many confrontations such as domestic violence and other crimes can be attributed to alcohol. The criminal activities and injustices that surround marijuana exists because it is illegal in much of the world. If legalized throughout the world you would see a dramatic decrease in such activities and a savings to many countries for legal prosecutions, incarceration etc in regards to marijuana. It indeed can create wealth for the government by collecting taxes, creating jobs, etc.... I personally do not partake. I do hope it is legalized throughout the world.

  5. Build the resevoir. If built this will provide jobs and a reason to visit Anderson. The city needs to do something to differentiate itself from other cities in the area. Kudos to people with vision that are backing this project.