Wabash County economy
says economist, retired
Wabash County's economic
environment is reacting slowly to national trends, with declines in housing
and bank deposits, but shows continued strength in industrial production,
reports Dr. Richard B. Harshbarger, retired professor of economics at
Following a positive second
quarter, economic growth stabilized in Wabash County in third quarter 2003.
The Economic Index for Wabash County is 121.5 (1985 = 100), at the same
level as in third quarter 2002. The 2003 index peaked in June, at 122.4.
"The economic strength for Wabash
County shows in the production levels of manufacturing companies, measured
by electrical demand by industrial firms," Harshbarger said, noting
industrial electrical demand is 12.6 percent above demand two years ago.
The third-quarter demand level mirrors the second quarter, but it is 1
percent higher than December 2002. "This higher level of electricity
consumption points to increased productivity of Wabash County workers, as
employment showed little change," Harshbarger said.
Wabash County employment was
16,290 in September 2003, the same level as in September 2002. In the past
two years, Wabash County has posted a 2.5 percent decline in employment each
year. Harshbarger predicts the decline will continue this year.
Bank deposits adjusted for
inflation declined 1.6 percent in third quarter 2003. The total deposits in
Wabash County were $633,224,000 in September, $2 million less than in
December 2002. "Inflation-adjusted bank deposits continue a decline started
in January 2002," Harshbarger said. The index for January 2002 was 132.5
(1985 = 128.5). "In past years, there has been a cyclical increase in bank
deposits adjusted for inflation - that increase may offset the present
decline in inflation-adjusted deposits in 2003," he said.
Housing permits declined in the
first nine months of 2003. The monthly permits ranged from three to nine
this year, compared with the monthly range of five to 17 in 2002. "Housing
has not been a major economic stimulus for Wabash County," Harshbarger
said. "The 2003 permit level is more in line with the past years than the
higher issuance in 2002."
Wabash County economic
environment has reacted slowly to the national trends, Harshbarger said,
noting economic conditions have been stable in the past five years. While
employment has declined since 1997, bank deposits adjusted for inflation and
industrial demand for inflation have been compensating forces, respectively,
to maintain the economic status for Wabash County.
"The national and state economic
growth may simulate production in manufacturing," he said. "However, this
growth production may show limited increase in jobs, as productivity gains
in last two years may support this increase in output."
Northern Indiana is recovering in
employment from the 2001 recession, Harshbarger said. "Wabash County will
feel portions of this expansion, but it may be at a slower rate than