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County's jobless rate at 6%

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Bartholomew County’s unemployment rate of 6 percent in November increased 0.6 percentage points from October, the biggest month-over-month jump since December 2009/January 2010. It also marked the first time in the past three years that the rate increased from October to November.

However, the county’s November rate still was significantly lower than in November 2011. A year ago, the Bartholomew County rate stood at 6.7 percent. This November’s rate was the lowest for a November since 2008.

Compared with November 2011, the jobs data shows positive trends: The labor force increased by 400, the number of jobs by nearly 700, while the number of people reported jobless fell by more than 300.

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said this year’s November data were skewed by the unseasonably warm temperatures, which kept construction and landscaping projects going longer than normal.

“I wouldn’t be concerned about” the decline from October, said department spokesman Joe Frank.

Associated General Contractors of America, a construction industry group, said Friday, “Contractors have held down employment levels out of fear that failure in Washington to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ will trigger a recession and cause many projects to be canceled.”

Frank said he could not say whether the data included the recent local job losses at Dolly Madison and Cummins. The local Dolly Madison plant shut down in November, eliminating more than 200 jobs, and Cummins is reducing its workforce locally by 150 because of slower global economic growth.

Bartholomew County continued to fare well in comparison to other counties in the region and across the state: Bartholomew County’s rate ranked as the fifth-lowest in the state, according to data released Friday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Frank said the monthly unemployment data are based on surveys of individuals and employers, but the sample changes monthly, and U.S. Department of Labor does not reveal who is included in the survey.

Meanwhile, a Columbus-based financial analyst said comparisons of data from two consecutive months typically are not very helpful in discerning economic trends.

A look at a longer period, such as three to six months, provides better insight, said Craig Kessler, president and chief investment officer of Columbus-based Kessler Investment Group.

Labor force data in most other south-central Indiana counties mirrored the trends in Bartholomew County: Decatur, Jackson, Jennings, Johnson and Shelby counties all recorded lower unemployment rates in November than a year ago. But they also all recorded higher rates than in October. Brown County’s November rate, at 7.2 percent, was higher than October but also higher than a year earlier, when the rate was 7 percent.

The state’s November rate, at 8 percent, was down 0.6 percentage points from a year earlier but up by the same amount from October.

The national rate stood at 7.4 percent in November, down 0.8 percentage points from a year earlier and down 0.1 percentage points from October.

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