Muncie Forecast 2020.

Author:Faulk, Dagney

The data available from various government sources suggest that the local labor market in the Muncie Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)--which consists of Delaware County--is still recovering from the Great Recession and the structural changes in the economy related to dramatic decreases in manufacturing employment over the past several decades. The unemployment rate decreased, nonfarm employment decreased and average weekly wages increased. The average amount of food stamps issued increased--even as the average number of recipients decreased. The number of residential building permits issued increased, as did sales of existing houses.

Some of the highlights from 2019s business news include the closing of more than 10 stores in the Muncie Mall during 2019--in addition to the two anchor stores that closed during 2018--leaving a high vacancy rate. (1) AquaBounty Technologies received FDA approval to raise genetically engineered salmon in Albany and began hatching fish. (2) Accutech Systems, a software company for the trust and investment industry, announced that it was renovating a vacant former department store downtown to serve as its headquarters. (3) In early 2019, Waelz Sustainable Products announced plans to purchase the long-vacant BorgWarner property with plans to build a steel-dust recycling facility. By August, the project was withdrawn due to public outcry over lead and other emissions associated with similar facilities in other parts of the country. (4)

A couple of events that began in previous years and will affect economic development prospects and the ability of Muncie to attract new households to live in the area are still in process. During July 2019, media reported additional arrests related to the ongoing FBI investigation into alleged corruption in Muncie local government. The district administrator of the Muncie Sanitary district and a local businessman were indicted. (5) The investigation continues. After enduring several years of financial crisis and a state takeover followed by the 2018 appointment of a new board of trustees by Ball State University, Muncie Community Schools seems to be stabilizing with fewer student transfers out of the district and lower teacher turnover.

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.

Labor markets

The unemployment rate for the Muncie metro decreased from 4.3 percent in August 2018 to 3.9 percent in August 2019 (see Table 1). The unemployment rate in the Muncie metro is consistently higher than Indiana's rate and the national unemployment rate. In August, the unemployment rate for Indiana was 3.2 percent, while the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.3 percent (not seasonally...

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