It’s welcome news for the thousands of people still out of work.
For unemployed or underemployed people like Scott Hershberger, the tough reality of translating his 18 years of experience in the RV industry on a job application is too familiar.
“I was working at Coachman RV and they went out of business so I’m working at a furniture place right now. They’re kind of slow but [at least] we’re working,” he said.
County Commissioner Mike Yoder told WSBT a big challenge for Elkhart County is the age of its unemployed workforce.
“We have people in my age group – upper 40s, mid 50s – that have been without work for a very long time and they’re very much honed in on manufacturing type jobs,” he said.
And slowly, Elkhart County’s job market is rebounding.
Department of Workforce Development numbers show the county’s workforce peaked in 2006.
Number of People Working in Elkhart County
June 2006 – 135,500
June 2007 – 132,200
June 2008 – 123,500
June 2009 – 96,900
June 2010 – 105,900
June 2011 – 106,300
Yoder said those numbers should keep climbing.
“[We expect those jobs] in areas that are pretty exciting for the county. We’ve talked about becoming more diverse, a little less reliant on RVs, and that’s where we’re seeing most of our new job growth,” he said.
Yoder wouldn’t get specific about which companies are considering coming to Elkhart County or which existing ones might expand, but he did say the diversification of jobs is already happening in what he called the “advanced technology” field – areas such as bioengineering, life science jobs, nursing and electronics.
In the past few weeks, a metals company announced plans to relocate to Elkhart from Illinois, creating up to 100 jobs by 2014. Utilimaster RV is moving its manufacturing operations to Wakarusa from Michigan, bringing up to 60 new jobs by next year.
But for people like Hershberger who need good, steady work now, more jobs can’t be here soon enough. “I just hope it comes quick,” he said.