By Brenda Showalter, The Republic

[email protected]

    Fueled by layoffs at manufacturing companies, Indiana and Bartholomew County unemployment numbers for January were the highest since the mid-1980s. 

  The county's 8.1 percent rate, announced Friday by Indiana D e p a r t m e n t of Workforce Development, was below the state's 9.9 percent, but 1.6 percent higher than a month earlier, and more than twice the rate from January 2008.

    Bartholomew County, however, fared better than 76 of Indiana's other 92 counties. Recording higher numbers were Jennings, 13.5 percent; Decatur, 11.8 percent; Brown, 10.9 percent; and Jackson 9.7 percent. The state's rate spiked to 9.9 percent, up from 5.3 percent in January 2008.

   Nearly 320,000 people in Indiana were actively looking for jobs in January, up 90 percent from a year earlier. And nationwide, more than 13 million people were looking for jobs in January, up from 8.2 million a year earlier.

   The national unemployment rate in January, 8.5 percent, was up 2.9 percentage points from a year earlier.

   Mayor Fred Armstrong had expected the January increase based on information tracked locally. And even though many of the job losses were from manufacturing companies, the economic impact goes beyond the factory doors.

   "It's the trickledown effect," Armstrong said. "It touches every part of the work force." 

   Armstrong predicted that the economy would not improve for several months. 

   Some of Bartholomew County's largest employers, including Cummins Inc. and NTN Driveshaft, announced layoffs in February. 

   Other companies have moved to four-day work weeks as they try to weather the recession and reduced sales. 

   North Vernon Mayor Harold "Soup" Campbell said Jennings County's high rate for January might be reflective of residents who commute to work in neighboring counties where companies had layoffs. 

   "I think we took our brutal hit back before Christmas," Campbell said. "Now the layoffs are happening around us." 

   Campbell said he and other county officials are working to bring new jobs to the county and help residents find job training. 

   Elkhart topped Indiana's list in January with 18.3 percent. The lowest rate of 5.9 percent was recorded in Daviess County. 

   According to IDWD, the state's unemployment rate last topped 8 percent in February 1985.
   Indiana's highest numbers came in the early 1980s when the rate peaked at 12.8 percent in November 1982. 

   Bartholomew County recorded even higher numbers. The Republic reported in April 1982 that the local rate was 16.5 percent. 

   The state will announce February unemployment rates on March 27.

© 2023 The Republic