This article provides a short synopsis of several key pieces of data that can be used in judging the economic well-being of the Kokomo region. Indiana University Kokomo serves a diverse 14-county region, (1) and includes communities very dependent on heavy manufacturing, as well as other areas that are far more agriculturally dependent. This article will touch on key issues that affect the overall region, while placing greater emphasis on the Kokomo and Howard County areas.
Limited gains in employment
The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate within Howard County has fluctuated considerably over the course of the last 20 months (see Figure 1). As was the case in both 2015 and 2016, the unemployment rate was noticeably higher during the first quarter, but diminished considerably over the remainder of the year. The drop from August to September 2016 was, in fact, quite significant.
However, when making year-over-year comparisons between 2015 and 2016, the unemployment rate has only made minimal changes. While not showing the extreme fluctuations seen for Howard County, the Indiana unemployment rate depicted in Figure 1 does display much the same pattern, consistently being 0.1 to 0.3 percentage points lower than that for Howard County. In comparison to the national data, Howard County and the state of Indiana generally saw unemployment rates consistently lower than that of the nation as a whole.
Within the 14-county region, similar seasonal fluctuations were found-higher levels during the first quarter of the year and then a general decline throughout the remainder of the year. County-to-county comparisons revealed considerable differences between the unemployment rates across the region.
Howard County's unemployment rates were among the highest one-third within the region. Several counties, noticeably Grant and Madison--and Miami to a limited extent--also had higher unemployment rates than those found elsewhere within the region and were anywhere from 0.2 to 0.5 percentage points higher on average than those for Howard County.
At the same time, Carroll, Clinton, Hamilton, Tippecanoe and Tipton counties found their unemployment rates considerably lower. In some instances, the difference represented approximately half a percentage point. However, the true exception was Hamilton County, which was nearly 1.5 percentage points lower. The counties with the lower rates tended to be more rural and dependent on agriculture; though clearly, that is...