South Bend and Elkhart forecast 2017.

AuthorZhuang, Hong

The South Bend-Mishawaka Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Elkhart-Goshen MSA in 2016 saw mild economic growth, good expansions in the labor force, moderate gains in employment, slightly higher unemployment rates, modest growth in wages and continuous recovery in the housing market.

Real metropolitan GDP

The joint economy of the South Bend-Mishawaka and Elkhart-Goshen MSAs continued to grow in 2015. (1) The total real metropolitan gross domestic product (RGDP) was $563 million higher in 2015 than in 2014, a rise of 2.3 percent. (2) The combined region has now surpassed its pre-recession real GDP level from 2007 by $768 million.

Specifically, the Elkhart-Goshen MSA outperformed the South-Bend-Mishawaka MSA by gaining $454 million in its real GDP, a 3.7 percent output growth rate. The South Bend-Mishawaka MSA grew only 0.9 percent in its aggregate production, adding an additional $109 million. It is worth noticing that aggregate production in the South Bend-Mishawaka MSA still fell $337 million short of its pre-recession 2007 level. Furthermore, both areas experienced slower economic growth in 2015 with an average rate of 2.3 percent, whereas the growth rate was 3.7 percent in 2014.

Labor force and employment

The labor market in the combined region saw sizable growth from August 2015 to August 2016, adding 6,281 workers to the local labor force (see Figure 1). (3) In August 2016, the combined labor force was 264,724 workers, on par with the June 2007 pre-recession level of 264,700 workers. The increase in the labor force indicates that more people started actively searching for jobs.

Payroll employment in the two MSAs continued gaining ground: Total employment for the combined region went up from 247,580 workers in August 2015 to 252,825 workers by August 2016. In particular, added employment in the South Bend-Mishawaka MSA was the major driving force, gaining 4,659 workers; the Elkhart-Goshen MSA only added 586 new jobs. The growth rate of employment in the South Bend-Mishawaka MSA at 3.2 percent was beyond the national average growth rate of employment at 1.7 percent, yet lagged behind the state average of 3.6 percent. The Elkhart-Goshen MSA's employment growth rate of 0.6 percent lagged both the national and state averages in 2016.

Unemployment

With increased employment and a growing labor force, the unemployment rates in both MSAs fluctuated during the year. The jobless rate in the Elkhart-Goshen MSA was 4.0 percent in August 2016, up 0.4 percentage points from 3.6 percent in August 2015. The South Bend-Mishawaka...

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