The Muncie-area economy showed several positive changes over the past year. The unemployment rate decreased over the course of the year, even as the labor force reached pre-recession levels. Nonfarm employment increased, as did the number of residential building permits. Residential sales were strong, and shortages of inventory in the $125,000 to $250,000 range are likely to spur new construction in the coming year. Corresponding to improvement in Muncie's employment situation, the number and amount of food stamps issued decreased substantially during 2016.
Media reports substantiate the improving economic situation. There is increased activity in the downtown Muncie area. With the opening of the new Marriot Courtyard downtown, convention business rose during 2016.
Media reports show an increasing number of conventions linked to the new downtown hotel, with at least a dozen new conventions and events scheduled through the summer of 2017. (1)
Other downtown news included funding in the form of a $1 million loan from the city to jump-start construction on a maker hub (renamed GearBox and then Madjax Maker Force) on the east side of downtown in the former Cintas/Midwest Towel facility. (2) The maker hub is meant to be a space for art, cultural activities and professional services to be accessible in one space.
In the retail sector, the opening of a new supermarket, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, was announced and is expected to create 80 jobs in the coming year. (3) On the downside, two sports stores (MC Sports and Dunham's Sports) announced they are closing. Increased competition from Dick's Sporting Goods (which opened in 2014) was cited as one reason for the stores' closing. (4) Also, the Marsh warehouse in Yorktown closing in September affected about 72 workers. (5)
In manufacturing, Brevini Wind, which opened in 2010 to much fanfare, ceased operation late summer--affecting about 20 employees. The Brevini USA subsidiary of the group's power transmission unit will continue operation in the same industrial park, employing more than 40 workers. (6) Ardagh, an international glass and metal company, announced that it would move its headquarters from Muncie to Fishers, affecting about 200 office workers. (7)
This article includes the most current data available on various measures of economic activity from public sources for the Muncie MSA (Delaware County) to analyze changes over the past year. A summary of the labor market forecast for the Muncie area is included in the conclusion.
The unemployment rate fell over the year, decreasing from 5.9 percent in January to 4.9 percent in September. This rate is slightly higher than one year ago (4.7 percent in September 2015), as people entered the labor force in greater numbers. Delaware County's unemployment rate remains higher than Indiana's rate of 4.2 percent (not...