Indiana's unemployment fell 0.4 percentage points in December to 6.9 percent, the lowest it has been in 62 months.
Jobless rates dropped in Northwest Indiana last month, and have fallen significantly over the past year. Unemployment in the Gary metropolitan area fell to 8 percent in December, down from 8.6 percent in November and 9.6 a year earlier. Joblessness in the Michigan City metro area declined to 8.3 percent in December, as compared to 8.9 percent in November and 10.5 percent in December 2012.
About 2,603 Northwest Indiana workers either gained jobs last month or dropped out of the labor force.
Unemployment rates fell in every major Northwest Indiana community except for Hobart, where it remain unchanged.
In the region, Porter County had the lowest countywide rate of 6.9 percent, while Schererville's 5.9 percent unemployment rate was the lowest among communities with more than 25,000 residents. Joblessness slid in the cities of Gary and East Chicago, but they were the only major cities in the state that are still suffering from double-digit unemployment.
Statewide, Indiana added 42,600 jobs last year, but private sector employment shrunk by 4,800 jobs in December. The state has added 217,000 private sector jobs at a rate of 9.3 percent since the low point of employment in July 2009, but the state continues to lag the national jobless rate of 6.7 percent.
"There are fewer Hoosiers unemployed now than in the past five years," said Scott Sanders, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. "Just as important is the fact more than 21,000 folks have returned to the labor force over the past three months, which is unique in the Midwest. Although Hoosiers are encouraged the economy is improving and there are jobs available, there still is more work to be done."
The sector that added the most jobs in December was professional and business services, which added 200 positions. An estimated 1,300 construction jobs were lost during the month. Manufacturing, which is 24 times more concentrated in Northwest Indiana than the rest of the country, shed 1,700 jobs statewide in December.
About 25,094 people were out of work in the Gary metro area in December, as compared to 28,167 a year earlier. The size of the labor force, however, shrunk to 324,444 from 328,269 in November, because discouraged workers – such as older workers near the cusp of retirement – decided to give up their job searches and leave the labor market.
In the Michigan City metro area, the labor force contracted by about 100 workers over the last year, but about 1,100 fewer people were unemployed than they were in December 2012.