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Region unemployment finally falls back under double digits for first time during pandemic
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Region unemployment finally falls back under double digits for first time during pandemic

Unemployment falls across Northwest Indiana

Unemployment fell in Northwest Indiana last month.

The Region's unemployment rate dropped again in August to the lowest point it's been since the coronavirus pandemic started, finally falling below double digits.

Northwest Indiana, however, suffered some of the highest joblessness in the Hoosier state in August. Lake and LaPorte counties ranked number one and two in joblessness statewide, while Porter County also was in the top 10.

Cities in north Lake County were especially hard-hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19. More than 15% of people were still unemployed in Gary, 13% in East Chicago and just shy of 10% in Hammond in August, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The jobless rate peaked at a staggering 19.4% in April, but fell to 8.6% in August across the Gary metropolitan area, which encompasses Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties. The unemployment rate in the Gary metro area was 10.7% in July and just 4.3% in August a year prior.

In August, Lake County had the Hoosier state's highest jobless rate at 9.4%, down from 11.4% in July but up significantly from 4.6% in August 2019. LaPorte County ranked second highest out of Indiana's 92 counties at 8.5% unemployment in August, which was down from 10.6% in July but up significantly from just 4% at the same time a year ago, according to the Department of Workforce Development.

Porter County's unemployment dropped to 7.2% in August, down from 9.5% in July but up from 3.7% at the same point a year earlier. It was the eight highest jobless rate statewide.

Overall, Indiana's unemployment rate fell to 6.4% in August, down from 7.9% the previous month, while the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 8.4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment climbed as high as 12% in Northwest Indiana during the depths of the Great Recession more than a decade ago, but had been significantly higher in Northwest Indiana during the pandemic, following stay-at-home orders meant to stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans thus far. More than one out of 10 Region residents on average were out of work for months.

In August, joblessness fell in every Northwest Indiana City and town in which it's tracked. In the Calumet Region, Gary had the highest jobless rate of 15.8%, East Chicago the second highest of 13%, Michigan City the third highest of 11.9%, and Merrillville the fourth highest of 11.2%. Schererville  and Valparaiso tied for the lowest jobless rate locally at 6.9%.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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