New job numbers aren’t all that rosy

Every administration, regardless of political party, claims remarkable success in promoting job growth in Indiana. If times are bad, we do a sensational job, given the difficulties we face. If times are good, Hoosier job creation outpaces (pick from the following) the nation, Illinois, Kentucky, Burma or Antarctica.

However, I looked at the data after the recent self-congratulatory claims from the State Office for Ooze. Instead of focusing on the latest release of data from a volatile monthly data source, I chose annual data for two decades (from 1994 to 2004 and 2004 to 2014). This gives us a firmer view of how Indiana has been doing compared with the nation.

As many have noted, job growth has been slowing. At the national level, the number of jobs grew by 17 percent from 1994 to 2004. In the next decade (2004 to 2014), U.S. jobs grew by 10 percent. For those two decades, Indiana’s job growth rate was 9 and 4 percent, respectively.

Over that 20-year period, jobs in the U.S. grew by 29 percent, while Indiana advanced only 13 percent. Where was the news release admitting the Hoosier state ranked 47th among the 50 states in the rate of job growth from 1994 to 2014?

Instead, we get monthly and annual trumpeting of progress made without context. Yes, Indiana may add jobs in a given month, but how are we doing among the states? In the years from 1994 to 2014 we fell from having 2.3 percent to barely 2 percent of American jobs.

“Not much,” a state apologist would say. But that “little difference” is the equivalent of 950,000 jobs over those 20 years. That failure, to just keep pace with the nation, means our addition of 442,000 jobs between ’94 and ’14 was 53 percent short of mediocrity.

At the same time, the kinds of companies employing Hoosiers were changing … and changing in ways different from the ways national employment changed.

We don’t have the space for a detailed analysis, but between 2004 and 2014 we lost 26,000 construction jobs or 12 percent of the jobs in that industry, while the nation dropped only 7 percent.

Although both Indiana and the U.S. lost about 12 percent of their durable goods manufacturing jobs, we saw greater percentage declines in computer and electronic products than did the nation. This was opposite to Indiana’s lesser percentage losses in primary metals and motor vehicle manufacturing.

Parents and school counselors should pay attention to the numbers, even if Hoosier policy makers continue to delude themselves.