Ball State Economist: Great Recession Is Over, But Indiana Manufacturing Lags

Dec 6, 2016

Credit Annie Ropeik

A Ball State University economic forecast says the United States has fully recovered from the Great Recession and growth is coming.  The annual prediction also shows slow growth in Indiana, especially in the state’s manufacturing sector.

Ball State economist Michael Hicks predicts the national economy will grow by 2.1 percent next year.  Compared to other national forecasts, that’s conservative – some predict up to 2.4 percent growth.

Hicks says Indiana will grow as well, but more slowly, especially in employment.  State officials tout Indiana’s healthy manufacturing sector and Hicks says 2015 was a record manufacturing year.  But not for jobs. 

The top year for manufacturing jobs?  1973.

Hicks says because of automation, lower-end manufacturing jobs aren’t available anymore.  And that should change the game-plan for any student looking to enter the sector.

“If you’re a young man or woman, a junior or senior in high school thinking about ‘What am I going to do?,’ well, there are plenty of jobs in manufacturing, but you need to go to college for two years at Ivy Tech, get a certificate program, or get into one of those few companies that have a training program," Hicks says. 

Despite job losses in manufacturing, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) says Indiana’s diverse employment opportunities are the reason the state is doing so well nationally.

“We have agriculture.  We have manufacturing.  We have life sciences.  We have tech.  And so when one may be struggling a little bit, we have another one to help pick them up," Donnelly says. 

Even though manufacturing is hiring less, products are still being made.  And those products need to be shipped all over the world.  Hicks says the national transportation and logistics sector should grow by nearly 5 percent in 2017 -- and would be the smartest industry in which to train.