Unemployment rate steadily declining in county

PLYMOUTH — “Slow and steady wins the race” may be the phrase that describes how Marshall County is recovering from recession.
According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Marshall County’s unemployment rate declined in 2011 to 9.4 percent from 10.7 percent in 2010. This compares to an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent in Starke County and 9.6 percent in St. Joseph County. Although the improvement is small, it’s a start — and nothing to be sneezed at, according to Marshall County Economic Development Center (MCEDC) director Jennifer Laurent.
“A lot of people misunderstand unemployment rates,” explained Laurent. “It is painful when a friend or relative loses their job, but the main reason unemployment rises during economic downturns is not job losses. The reason is that job creation falls while the labor force continues to grow and new jobs are more difficult to find.”
Laurent added that the MCEDC’s goal is to create an environment where businesses feel comfortable expanding and creating new jobs. Several local companies have done this in 2011, including Zentis, Coleman Cable, Inc., Hoosier Racing Tire, ITAMCO, Whitley Products, Summit Fiberglass, and Kessler Crane. More than 200 new jobs were created by these expansions, said Laurent.
“We are not like some areas of the country where there are just not jobs,” said Laurent. “Most of our major employers are hiring at any given time. Their dilemma is truly in finding quality, committed employees.”
Part of the MCEDC’s goal this year is to find the “skills gap” between what employers need and what potential employees are lacking. With this information, MCEDC staff hopes to educate school representatives and other groups about how to better prepare students for the workforce.
“Many of our companies say that it’s not the economy or lack of sales holding them back — they could expand, if they could fill the jobs,” said Laurent.
In 2011, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development listed the Marshall County labor force as a little more than 21,000 strong. Of those laborers, about 2,000 were unemployed at the end of 2011.