At last we know the candidates for the election day ballot in November. The suspense was terrible, but now, maybe, we can begin to think about what’s actually important to Hoosiers.

It’s going to be tough with so many of the current legislators unopposed. Yes, the folks who gave us the past are poised to give us the future. And what has that past been?

According to the dedicated folks who have been running things, it’s been glor-ee-us. We’re doing’ just fine, particularly compared to our midwestern neighbors. Yes, we’re not necessarily healthy, but those other states in this part of the country are downright sick.

Let’s examine just two sides of the economic coin.

Jobs. We know the diligent folks at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) have been working hard every hour of every day of every year as far back as anybody can remember.

If the data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in Washington were up to speed in producing the data, we’d see things better. But we’ll settle for 2002 to 2022 BEA numbers because they are more complete than any other numbers around.

In 2002, when many of those protesting Hoosier college students were being born, this state had almost 3.6 million jobs. That was a right-proud 2.15% of all U.S. jobs.

Over time, that number grew to 4.1 million jobs, but fell to 1.95% of all U.S. jobs. It was an increase of nearly 600,000, but nonetheless, we slipped from 14th to 18th place after growing by only 0.77% per year (32nd highest among the 50 states).

But it’s OK because Kentucky was only one place higher in the growth rankings. Plus, our competition in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan didn’t see any better job growth than we did.

Then there’s Compensation, which is wages and salaries plus what employers kick-in for private and public pensions and medical insurance. Average compensation for Hoosier workers went from the 28th highest nationally in 2002 to 36th in 2022. That’s from 10.3% below the U.S. average to 15.7% behind the nation.

The average Hoosier worker realized an average pay increase of 2.9% per year (5th lowest in the U.S.), just over the 2.4% annual increase in consumer prices for that 20 year period .

Indeed, everything’s been swell because Michigan came in last among the states. Even Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia advancing faster than we did doesn’t bother us. We’re naturally good-natured and like to see our distant cousins do well.

Yes, this is the record of the past 20 years. We’re hoping all those investment IEDC anticipates and all those jobs they are forecasting will turn these numbers around. After all, our brave business boosters insist Indiana’s the nation’s business hot spot and they surely know what’s what.
Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers, and his views can be followed his podcast.

© 2024 Morton J. Marcus