The May unemployment rates for Indiana counties were released last week. They show improvement, although the state figure (8.1 percent) remains above the national rate (7.3 percent).
Before our state cheerleaders begin clog dancing, let’s look at what is going on.
The top 10 of our 92 counties have unemployment rates of 9.9 percent or more. Fountain County leads with a 12 percent rate followed by Fayette and Sullivan.
The bottom 10 unemployment rates are between 5.6 percent and 6.7 percent with Hamilton County enjoying the lowest rate followed by Dubois and Daviess.
These days, economists are inclined to say 6 percent unemployment is natural, normal or satisfactory. That arbitrary number changes with the analyst as well as the place and moment of analysis.
Our current situation is part of the continuing improvement in the American economy. All is not, however, a blaze of prosperity in the Hoosier state. In 45 of 92 counties, the May 2013 unemployment rate is greater than that rate in 2012. There is a measure of stagnation for you.
In the 460 county-May months since 2009 (92 counties times 5 years), the unemployment rate was 10 percent or greater one-third of the time.
What does a 10 percent unemployment rate mean? Nothing, if there is no empathy in your heart for the worker struggling to find a job.
Ten percent unemployment means one in 10 workers is searching for the food to feed a family and the rent to sustain a household. He or she can be invisible to those believing they are among the elite because they have good health care and retirement savings.
Invisible too are the unemployed to the over-compensated corporate executives who drive or are driven in luxury cars along cheerful boulevards that hide from view the housing of the poor. Even the ordinary worker with a car on the freeway may not see the dwellings of the unemployed because the Department of Transportation puts up walls to hide their homes from view.
Despite Indiana’s crawling improvement, its position could have been stronger if the state had acted prudently. Instead Indiana tossed aside great opportunities and serious responsibilities in favor of knee-jerk fiscal folly – cutting spending and taxes from a bloated surplus.
What is left is a massive deficit – a deficit of public services which will have cumulative effects over the next generation. The workers of today who have not received the basic training necessary for the labor market will be tomorrow’s workers.
The children denied better education as school budgets have been cut will be the workers of the next decade. The elderly and infirm whose medical services have been reduced may meet their maker sooner because the legislators and governors of our state have put money ahead of mercy
Opinions are solely the writers. Morton Marcus is an independent economist, writer and speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.