The June Doldrums in Monroe County Employment

Yesterday, the Herald Times published the story Monroe County’s jobless rate jumps 1.1% in June [subscription required]. The HT typically publishes a short story of this type monthly, after the unemployment numbers by county are released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. In particular, the (unsigned) story states that:

“Monroe County’s unemployment rate rose in June by more than a full percentage point to 6.3 percent, moving it into the bottom half of Indiana’s 92 counties in terms of employment. That is as far down the list as the county has fallen in recent memory. Monroe’s employment fluctuates with Indiana University’s calendar, but to fall to more than 6 percent unemployed during the summer months is highly unusual.” [emphasis mine]

This paragraph lends the story a bit of an ominous tone, as though our local economy is somehow teetering on the brink of another recession…that we are in uncharted territory with such a drop in June employment. In fact, the data shows that not only do we always have a drop in employment in June (as businesses cut back due to large numbers of students leaving for the summer), but that we have a drop of similar magnitude.

I created a chart of Monroe County’s unemployment rate from 2010 to the present (June 2014), and as you can see below, the exact same phenomenon happens every year — that April is an annual trough for unemployment, that unemployment peaks by about 2 percentage points by June, and then starts to fall again. In fact, even the Herald Times’ own article for the same period last year —Monroe County unemployment jumps with the season — shows our June (2013) unemployment rate at 8.5%! So how can they now claim that “to fall to more than 6 percent unemployed during the summer months is highly unusual”?

Monroe County Unemployment Rate 2010-2014 (June)

Monroe County Unemployment Rate 2010-2014 (June)

In fact, what is unusual about 2014, as shown from the graph, is how low the overall unemployment rate is! Even our peak June employment rate in 2014 is fairly close to the low point for the previous four years.

The data that I used for this chart can be found all the way back to 2000, from the STATSIndiana site.

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