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South Bend job market in decline

Eva Binda | Thursday, April 5, 2007

Indiana’s continued loss of jobs in the first months of 2007 increases Notre Dame’s role as a major employer in the South Bend area, a finance professor said.

According to figures released March 30 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indiana lost 7,400 jobs in February 2007 after being one of only three states in 2006 to report a net loss in jobs – approximately 12,700.

Ohio was the only state to report a larger job loss in February, with a decline of 9,700.

Finance professor Jeffrey Bergstrand said the loss of jobs is “part of the overall trend” in many Midwest states because of the decline in the American manufacturing industry. Most of the jobs lost in Indiana came from the state’s manufacturing and construction sectors, which have been struggling.

Bergstrand said what is happening in Indiana “reflects a global trend” as workers move from production-related occupations to service-related jobs.

This trend is affecting not only Indiana as a whole but also the immediate South Bend economy, he said.

“Thirty years ago, manufacturing was dominant [in the South Bend economy]. A minority was employed in service related industries,” Bergstrand said. “There has been a lot of growth in terms of financial services as well as growth of jobs in health care.”

Today, the majority of jobs in the area are service-related, and South Bend has become a regional center for health services, he said.

Although Notre Dame has long been pivotal to the South Bend economy, Bergstrand said, the University now bears an even larger burden as the largest employer in the area. Add to that the jobs at hotels, restaurants and other businesses brought by Notre Dame, and the University’s economic impact only grows.

There was some good news, however, from employment data released Monday by the Indiana Department of Workplace Development. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in February 2007, down from 5.8 percent the month before.

Locally, St. Joseph County ranked No. 47 out of 92 in a list of unemployment by county, reporting a 5.6 percent jobless rate.

The national unemployment rate for 2006 was 4.6 percent, according to U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.