Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Opinion

April 16, 2014

MORTON MARCUS: The truth behind Indiana’s economic condition is often unwelcome

Jim Feelwright greeted me warmly as I entered the room: “Well, here he is, Mr. Negative.”

Since it was a friendly meeting, I borrowed a famous line from the movies: “You can’t handle the truth.”

“You,” he said, “just don’t want to see what’s really happening in our state.”

“No,” I responded, “you’re the one who reads the Happy News spewed by politicians and boosters. I look at the data and what I see is dim.”

“We’re doing just great,” Jim said. “New businesses opening all the time, and existing firms expanding all over the state.”

“So,” I asked, “you’ll agree the recession is over?”

“Absolutely over for Indiana,” he asserted, “because we have a great business climate.”

“Then how do you explain the fact,” I asked, “that average monthly private sector jobs in Indiana for 2013, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, were nearly 2 percent (49,200) below the pre-recession 2007 level? Our population is growing and we have fewer jobs than six years earlier?

“Further,” I pressed, “our average weekly earnings, for those on wages and salaries in the private sector, were up only 8 percent (about $59).”

“Not bad, if you’re asking me,” Jim replied.

“Not bad, if you’re forgetting inflation was 12 percent during that period,” I said. “The average Hoosier worker saw wages fall by almost $30 per week in buying power over those six years.”

“Small change,” Jim said.

“Maybe at your income level in your community,” I said.

“Don’t get personal,” Jim objected.

“It is personal,” I insisted. “Where you live and what you earn in Indiana says much about what you think of Indiana. In the Columbus, Lafayette and Indianapolis-Carmel metropolitan areas the number of jobs increased. But in every one of the other 13 metro areas, which include Hoosier counties, the number of jobs has not recovered to pre-recession levels.”

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