Indiana's unemployment rate continued its slow rise during July, inching up to 10.2 percent even as the state gained about 8,700 jobs mostly in the manufacturing and construction sectors, figures released Friday show.
The 319,000 Indiana residents looking for work in July were about 17,000 more than in January, when Indiana had a 9.7 percent unemployment rate, according to the report by the state Department of Workforce Development.
Indiana's jobless rate remained higher than the national rate, which was 9.5 percent.
While Indiana's July unemployment rate climbed one-tenth of a percentage point from June's 10.1 percent rate, the agency's report said its seasonally adjusted employment has grown 2.4 percent this year — or four times faster than the U.S. rate.
Indiana added a combined total of 7,100 manufacturing and construction jobs and another 4,600 in private education and health services in July as five of the eight major employment sectors recorded significant gains.
But the state also lost about 4,300 government jobs, largely from the loss of short-term jobs as the U.S. Census wound down.
Bill Witte, an associate professor of economics at Indiana University in Bloomington, said those lost Census jobs appear to have played a significant role in the slight rise in the state's jobless rate.
He called July's jobs market snapshot "a mixed bag."
"It's not good news but it's not terrible news either. These numbers don't look much better or worse than what's happening nationally," Witte said.
Workforce Development Commissioner Mark Everson said Indiana's jobless rate "stubbornly remains around 10 percent" because the state's recent job growth has prompted thousands of unemployed Indiana residents who weren't looking for work or had stopped their hunt to hit the streets in search of work.
Ball State University economist Michael J. Hicks agreed with that assessment. He said perhaps half the people who joined the job hunt in July are laid off workers who had returned to college or got additional training to boost their job options.
Others are people who had opted for early retirement as the businesses they worked for downsized earlier in the recession, but have not decided to look for a new job.
"Now that the economy is apparently doing better and the labor force is doing better, we're seeing those people coming back out of the woodwork," Hicks said.