Uric Dufrene-1

Uric Dufrene, Sanders Chair of Business at IUS

SOUTHERN INDIANA — What a difference a year makes, especially when it comes to the labor front.

The April 2020 jobs report, the first one released after millions of U.S. workers were laid off due to pandemic shutdowns, unveiled a 16.9% unemployment rate in Indiana and Kentucky.

A year later, Indiana’s jobless mark is 3.9%, and Kentucky’s is 4.7% according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Instead of grappling with layoffs, the biggest challenge to labor force is the availability of workers.

“Indiana saw a flat change in the labor force from March to April. Kentucky also saw no growth to its labor force,” said Uric Dufrene, Sanders Chair in Business at Indiana University Southeast.

“This is indicative of the labor shortages that are contributing to significant bottlenecks across certain sectors of the economy.”

Overall, Indiana is basically back to its pre-pandemic labor force level, and Kentucky is closing in on that mark. But employee shortages are keeping the labor force from growing.

Dufrene said that based on data from Burning Glass, there are almost 25% more job postings this month in Indiana than in February 2020.

“On the payroll side of the report, both states saw a small decline in payrolls,” Dufrene said. “There is no doubt that the labor shortage is contributing to this weaker growth on the payroll side. Employers want to increase jobs, but the workers are simply not available.”

From April 2020 through last month, Indiana added 363,000 jobs, placing it in the top 10 in the nation for job growth percentage. Kentucky added 196,800 jobs over that span.

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