Recent reports say unemployment rates have dropped for Elkhart County and Indiana.
Elkhart County's jobless rate dropped to 6.2 percent in January 2014 -- the lowest it has been since May 2008.
The state's jobless rate remains the lowest among all its neighboring states, and it's also 0.2 percent lower than the national average.
Indiana's jobless rate, before seasonal adjustment, actually increased from 6.3 percent in December to 6.6 percent in January, but with seasonal adjustment, it went from 6.8 percent to 6.4 percent in the same timeframe. (Seasonal adjustment removes seasonal influences, such as how there would be fewer jobs at a ski resort during summer months.)
Nationally, the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 percent in January from 6.7 percent in December.
While those numbers seem to indicate recovery at first glance, it doesn't mean life for many Americans is returning to pre-recession standards.
There are still 3.8 million -- or about 37 percent of all unemployed Americans -- who have been unemployed "long-term," meaning for more than 6 months. A recent story from the Associated Press reported that only 11 percent of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months, on average, will ever regain steady full-time work.
Findings by three Princeton University economists show that barely more than one out of 10 long-term unemployed were able to find full-time work on any given month between 2008 and 2012. The long-term unemployed also were two times more likely to stop looking for a job than find one. Those who are no longer actively job hunting aren't included in jobless numbers.
For Elkhart County, the approach of spring has brought several hiring announcements. Some Elkhart County manufacturers are expanding their workforce, including Crane Composites Inc. and Lippert Inc.
Manufacturing has remained one of the largest industries for the county, adding 12,800 jobs in January 2014 from January 2013.
Despite those announcements, however, some readers are still skeptical about the quality of the jobs offered.
The following charts visualize data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development's Employment Reports from 2008 to 2014.