Unemployment ticks up in Bartholomew County

Unemployment in Bartholomew County ticked up last month compared to a year before but remained among the lowest in Indiana.

In April, the jobless rate in Bartholomew County stood at 2.2%, tied for fourth lowest rate in the state and up from 1.9% in April 2022, according to figures released on Monday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Unemployment in Indiana was seasonally adjusted 3% in April, up from 2.8% in April 2022. U.S. unemployment was a seasonally adjusted 3.4% last month, down from 3.6% in April 2022.

In Jackson County, unemployment was 2.3% in April, down slightly from 2.4% a year earlier, while the jobless rate in Jennings County last month was 2.8%, down slightly from 2.9% in April 2022.

The update from state officials comes days after the Labor Department reported that U.S. jobless claims for the week ending May 13 fell by 22,000 to 242,000, down from 264,000 the week before, The Associated Press reported.

The weekly claims numbers are broadly as representative of the number of U.S. layoffs, which some economists expect to slowly tick up in the second half of 2023.

The four-week moving average of claims, which flattens some of the week-to-week fluctuations, ticked down by 1,000 to 244,250, according to wire reports. Analysts have pointed to a sustained increase in the four-week averages as a sign that layoffs are accelerating, but are reluctant to predict that a spike in layoffs is imminent.

Overall, 1.8 million people were collecting unemployment benefits the week that ended May 6, about 8,000 fewer than the previous week.

Locally, 23 workers in Bartholomew County filed initial jobless claims the week ending May 13, up from 14 the week before, according to the most recent figures from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

A total of 113 local workers were drawing unemployment benefits the week ending May 6, down from 121 the previous week, state records show.

So far this year, initial claims in Bartholomew County have hovered between 14 and 50 each week.

Since the pandemic purge of millions of jobs three years ago, the U.S. economy has added jobs at a breakneck pace and Americans have enjoyed unusual job security, according to wire reports. That’s despite interest rates that have been rising for more than a year and fears of a looming recession.

Early this month, the Fed raised its benchmark lending rate for the 10th time in a row in its bid to cool the economy and bring down four-decade high inflation. Though the labor market still favors workers, there have been some recent indications that the Fed’s policy actions are working.

In April, U.S. employers added a healthy 253,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 3.4%, matching a 54-year low, according to the AP. But the figures for February and March were revised lower by 149,000 jobs, potentially signaling that the Fed’s rate policy strategy is starting to cool the job market.

The government also recently reported that U.S. job openings fell in March to the lowest level in nearly two years.

The Fed is hoping to achieve a so-called soft landing — lowering growth just enough to bring inflation under control without causing a recession, according to wire reports. Economists are skeptical, with many expecting the U.S. to enter a recession later this year.

Last month, the Commerce Department reported that U.S. economy slowed sharply from January through March, decelerating to just a 1.1% annual pace as higher interest rates hammered the housing market and businesses reduced inventories.

There have been an increasing number of high-profile layoffs recently, mostly in the technology sector, where companies added jobs at a furious pace during the pandemic, according to wire reports. IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce, Twitter, Lyft, LinkedIn and DoorDash have all announced layoffs in recent months. Amazon and Facebook have each announced two sets of job cuts since November.

But it’s not just the tech sector that’s trimming staff. McDonald’s, Morgan Stanley and 3M also announced layoffs recently.