State jobless rate continues slide, hitting 4.5 percent

Indiana’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest point in eight years in September as the private sector added 6,600 jobs, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development announced Tuesday morning.

Last month’s seasonally-adjusted rate fell to 4.5 percent, down from 4.6 percent in August and 5.8 percent in September 2014, according to results of a phone survey of Indiana residents. September marked Indiana's lowest rate of unemployment since July 2007.

Private sector employment now is 9,200 jobs above its peak level in March 2000, state officials said, citing figures from a payroll survey of indiana companies. The gains in September included 3,000 jobs in the Private & Educational Health Services sector, 2,900 jobs in the Leisure and Hospitality segment, and 1,700 jobs in Construction.

Total nonfarm employment decreased in September by 4,100 jobs. The Professional & Business sector shed 1,900 jobs, and the Trade, Transportation & Utilities segment lost 500 jobs.

Indiana’s labor force participation rate ticked down to 63.5 percent in July, still a full percentage point above the national average. The labor force participation rate measures the percentage of working-age persons who are either employed or unemployed and actively looking for a job.

Federal figures show about 145,000 people were looking for jobs in Indiana last month.

Indiana tied with Ohio for the lowest unemployment rate among its neighboring Midwestern states in September, followed by Michigan (5.0 percent), Kentucky (5.0 percent), and Illinois (5.4 percent).

The national unemployment rate for September was 5.1 percent, holding steady from August.

“Indiana continues its robust economic recovery with consistent growth in private sector jobs, wages and labor force participation that are all above the national average,” said Steven J. Braun, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, in a prepared statement.

Drew Anderson, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party, said the state employment numbers didn’t tell the whole story about the state’s true economic shape.

“Today’s figures once again fit the national trend established by President Obama. But for Indiana, the hardworking middle class know jobs in the state provide wages far lower than what they were in early 2000,” Anderson said in a prepared release. “With shrinking wages and sluggish economic growth, Indiana continues to fall behind the rest of the nation, and it’s Gov. Mike Pence to blame for allowing the state to plummet to a rank of 46th in quality of life.”

The latter statistic referred to a recent CNBC scoring of states’ business environments, which took into account several criteria including infrastructure, education and quality of life. Indiana was ranked 13th overall by CNBC.

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