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The Population’s the Thing: Confronting Population Loss

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In recent times, Indiana’s population has been stagnant in many areas and declining in others. This isn’t a problem unique to Indiana by far; a number of states are dealing with this issue. But that coupled with a national unemployment rate below five percent creates a particular problem for all of these states.

In July, Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Commissioner Steve Braun said his department is actively seeking solutions to the state’s shortage of population, which in some areas means a shortage of workers. According to Commissioner Braun, the DWD has a number of programs expected to have an immediate impact on the issue. “We have our workforce ready grants that we can sell as an opportunity for people to go back to school and get in-demand certifications. These are certifications that employers need to fill the open positions that they have.”

While DWD works on state-level solutions, local areas are also hard at work on strategies to solve this potential problem as well: Whitley County, with an unemployment rate of 2.3 percent, has been targeting communities in other states—specifically ones with higher unemployment rates—to show off what the county and its communities have to offer. “Our goal was to target individuals who had the same skill sets that we need,” reports Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel, “who are unemployed, looking for a new home, a new place to excel and grow. Out of that, we’re having some good success.” Using Facebook and Google analytical tools, the city has been able to track where their advertisements are getting the most attention which allows them to better understand if people are considering moving to the area, and which areas show interest and thus make it worthwhile to focus more advertising. Those working on the outreach program caution that “these things don’t have a fast turnaround,” though, and patience is needed.

Understanding the problem is critical to finding good solutions. In April, John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Partnership, penned a terrific article explaining population stat calculations, which you can view here:

While we should celebrate our successes on a state and local level in driving the unemployment rate down, we now must actively confront the danger of employers struggling to find workers. Indiana has the economic strength and business-friendly climate to continue growing and progressing, and this low-unemployment could in fact be just what the state needs, since having good jobs available in a great state is a strong pull to draw new residents from other parts of the nation.

John Sampson, President and CEO

Northeast Indiana Partnership



Jon Myers, President

Whitley County Economic Development Corporation