INDIANAPOLIS — Northeast Indiana unemployment rates saw significant declines in September, including Allen County, which experienced a 1.6 percentage points decrease, and neighboring Whitley County, where the drop was 1.5 percentage points.

All of the other counties covered by KPC Media Group publications, which cover six counties, also saw significant declines.

September’s labor market numbers reflected more people working, fewer people searching for work, but some counties reflected a smaller overall labor force compared to both the previous month and a year ago, said an analysis by Northeast Indiana Works.

“September’s increase in the number of people working and fewer unemployed indicates all the messaging about available jobs is getting through to workers,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Community Research Institute. “However the smaller labor force for many counties indicates that people are leaving employment all together, perhaps as a result of retirement or opting for a one-income household for couples. Any employers who see the decline in the unemployment rate as a sign they can let off on recruiting efforts are misreading the numbers. This remains a competitive job market for which employers still need to remain competitive on both wages and other benefits like scheduling flexibility or health insurance packages.”

The Fort Wayne Metropolitan Statistical Area consisting of Allen, Wells and Whitley counties lost almost 1,000 workers between August and September, although some of that may be expected from natural seasonal adjustments such as college students returning to school. When comparing the two months, the population center of northeast Indiana gained 2,362 workers, reflecting a 1.15% increase. The metro area’s jump gets more impressive when showing the year-over-year numbers: a 2.1% increase going from 203,773 workers in September 2020 to 208,046 last month. The number of unemployed workers also went down from 10,614 to 7,220, dropping from a 4.9% unemployment rate in August to 3.4% for September. These are initial numbers and subject to revision over time.

DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble and Steuben counties all had more people working and fewer unemployed workers between August and September. All counties in this corner of the state had an unemployment rate for September below 5%, as did most of the state. Only Howard and Lake counties were not at “full employment” of an unemployment rate below 5%. LaGrange had the lowest unemployment rate in the state last month at 2% with Adams just behind it at 2.1%.

“Despite the promising numbers, there seems to be little or no letup in the need for workers across most industry sectors,” said Rick Farrant, director of communications for Northeast Indiana Works. “That is reflected in the steady scheduling of job fairs, the rise in the number of regional online job postings, and the continued focus by employers on expanding hiring and retention incentives. More people who left the workforce may return, but a fair question is: Even then, will we have enough available workers to meet the needs of employers?”

Here’s the run down for unemployment rates in the six-county area:

• Allen County, September unemployment 3.5%, down from 5.1% in August.

• DeKalb County, 2.8% unemployment in September, down from 3.1% in August.

• LaGrange County, state-leading 2.0% unemployment in September, down from 2.4% in August.

• Noble County, 3.2% unemployment in September, down from 3.8% in August.

• Steuben County had an unemployment rate of 2.4% in September, dropping from 2.9% in August.

• Whitley County’s unemployment dropped to 2.5% in September from 4.0% in August.

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