From the Manchester College Archives

News Release

Contact: Jeri Kornegay
Director of Media and Public Relations
260-982-5285  jskornegay@manchester.edu

Wabash County economy stabilizes,

says economist, retired MC professor

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 Manchester College.  

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 neighboring counties." 

 

 

 

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