Fort Wayne has enjoyed solid employment as a result of the extended economic expansion. However, the question of an economic contraction is not if but when, since this is the nature of the business cycle. Regardless, recessions aren't kind to Fort Wayne's economy, especially as it relates to local private-sector employment. Since labor force numbers are a lagging indicator, it is possible to have solid employment at the start of a recession, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 reflects the total annual private-sector employment in the Fort Wayne MSA from 2001 to 2018, which includes two official recessions: 2001 and 2008-2009. These numbers reflect the location of the job, not where employees live. Labor force numbers, which are used for the unemployment forecasts, reflect the location of the employee. (1)
Fort Wayne lost about 8.7 percent of its private-sector jobs from 2007 to 2010, going from 185,686 to 169,610 positions. It didn't match pre-recession jobs until 2016, a full seven years from the official end of the last recession.
Manufacturing, education and health services in Fort Wayne
Manufacturing continues to play a central role in Fort Wayne's economy, both in terms of productivity and employment. Looking at Fort Wayne's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 chained dollars, manufacturing has been and continues to be the most productive industry as measured by GDP (see Figure 2).
In 2001, manufacturing constituted 18.6 percent of Fort Wayne's GDP. By 2017, it was up to 24.7 percent, just down from 24.8 percent in 2016. In contrast, the education, health care and social assistance sector consisted of just over 13 percent in 2017. Finance, insurance and real estate constituted 16.2 percent of local GDP in 2017. (The 2018 GDP numbers--slated for release in December 2019--were unavailable at the time of this writing).
Switching to employment, of the Fort Wayne MSA's 190,807 private-sector jobs in 2018, 36,828 positions were in manufacturing--or more than 19 percent--according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data. For Indiana, 541,836 manufacturing positions made up just over 20 percent of the state's private-sectors jobs.
Whether the number of manufacturing jobs has rebounded depends on when one starts counting. Looking at the end of the Great Recession in 2009 to 2018, Fort Wayne's manufacturing jobs increased 20.5 percent, going from 30,573 to 36,828 jobs, according to BLS data.