Indiana unemployment rate falls by 0.3 percent

2014-03-28T12:30:00Z 2014-03-28T18:41:16Z Indiana unemployment rate falls by 0.3 percentJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

The state's unemployment rate fell significantly for the second straight month in February, but joblessness in Northwest Indiana climbed.

Indiana's seasonally adjusted employment rate fell to 6.1 percent last month, down from 6.4 percent a month prior. The rate had fallen by four-tenths of a percent in January.

Unemployment, however, is on the rise in Northwest Indiana, where it climbed by half a percentage point to 8.7 percent in the Gary metropolitan area and by 0.4 percent, to 9.4 percent, in the Michigan City metro area last month.

Joblessness rose in every major Northwest Indiana city and town, except for Crown Point, where it inched down by 0.1 percent in February. Double-digit unemployment persisted in East Chicago, Gary, Hobart and Michigan City, which had a state-high rate of 13.1 percent.

In Lake County, February unemployment rose to 9 percent, up from 8.7 percent a month prior, while it increased to 7.5 percent in Porter County, up from 7.1 percent in January. LaPorte County's unemployment shot up to 9.4 percent, as compared to 9 percent the previous month.

In Illinois, jobless rates fell in February in most metropolitan areas compared to the same time last year, although most areas also lost jobs.

Figures released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security show the Chicago-area rate in February was 9 percent, compared to 9.8 percent in February of 2013. Even so, that was higher than January's 8.6 percent.

In Indiana, despite the uptick, the unemployment rate was still more than a full percent point lower than it had been at the same time last year in both the Gary and Michigan City metro areas.

Statewide, Indiana added 5,400 private-sector jobs last month, posting the biggest gains in leisure and hospitality; construction; and trade, transportation and utilities. The manufacturing sector, which is heavily concentrated in Indiana and the region, also gained 800 jobs.

"Indiana has had a strong start to 2014 despite the harsh winter," said Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Scott Sanders. "Our unemployment rate is now the lowest it has been since August of 2008, and our labor force has expanded by nearly 14,000 in two months."

Indiana's unemployment rate had long hovered over the national average, but sunk below it in January and is now more than half a percentage point below the national rate for the first time in a decade. Last month, the number of unemployed Indiana residents fell below 200,000 for the first time since 2008.

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