State job growth weak in 2007

Last year was a yawner for job creation in Indiana, according to new figures from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Only 5,800 jobs were added. The 0.2-percent increase was virtually nothing compared to the national economy, which grew nearly 1 percent in a year when the economy slowed.

It also was the second year in a row of nearly stagnant growth after the economy had staged a comeback following a period of recession early in the decade.

But the state is faring better than other Great Lakes states.

For instance, Indiana’s unemployment rate of 4.7 percent in December was well below rates of surrounding states.

“As the economy is slowing down, there is less enthusiasm about hiring,” said Indiana University economist Jerry Conover. “We’ve been resisting those forces better than other states.

“I’m still looking at the glass as half-full, but it’s getting hard to tell how much above the half mark it is.”

Most industries in Indiana managed to eke out incremental growth. Manufacturing lost one in 100 jobs.

Unless the national economy slips into recession, manufacturing employment probably will level out, Conover said.

Even though old-line manufacturers continue to lay off workers and close plants, other plants are rising to take their place. The Honda assembly plant, which is scheduled to open this fall in Greensburg, is one example, he said.

Indianapolis fared reasonably well last year, Conover said, noting a 1.1-percent increase, to 921,000 workers.

Columbus, Evansville and Lafayette did well. Anderson, which continues to struggle following a long string of automotive plant closings, lost 1,600 jobs.

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