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State adds jobs in February at healthy clip

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Employment increased in both Indiana and the Indianapolis metro area in February, while the jobless rate crept up as more Hoosiers began looking for work.

The state unemployment rate inched up to 8.7 percent in February from 8.6 percent in January, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development reported Friday.

The state added 9,300 jobs, bringing total non-farm employment of 2,938,800 on a seasonally adjusted basis—up 0.3 percent from January and 1.7 percent more than in February 2012. The department pointed out that employment has increased in 38 of 42 months since July 2009.

While the number of Hoosiers with jobs is rising, employment has not yet rebounded to its most recent peak of 2,985,100 in 2007, let alone the record of 3,006,200 in January 2000.

Statewide hiring in manufacturing; leisure and hospitality; and trade, transportation and utilities all surged for the month. Government hiring, a category that includes public schools and hospitals, also climbed in February, although the total number of government employees was down from a year earlier.

The number of workers in the information and education and health sectors shrank from January.

Despite the net increase in jobs, the state unemployment rate rose because of a greater number of Hoosiers entering the work force.

The jobless rate in the Indianapolis area stood at 8.5 percent, up slightly from a year earlier, also because of more people entering the work force.

In the metro area—where figures are not adjusted for seasonally fluctuations, and thus are best compared with the same month a year earlier—employment increased 1.5 percent from February 2012 to 909,600 workers.

As was the case statewide, manufacturing showed strong growth, as did professional and business services, which has been fueled by a boom in the subcategory of temporary workers. Retailing also showed vigor.

An index designed by Indiana University to forecast the state economy over several upcoming months suggests growth will remain lackluster to modest.

The Leading Index for Indiana, released earlier this month, predicted slight improvement, which was consistent with an overall trend in the index since early 2009.

The index, at 100.9 in March, is compiled by the Indiana Business Research Center in the Kelley School of Business.
 

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