lozier file

Photo provided

Shelving components run through the manufacturing and assembly process at the Lozier plant in Middlebury in this 2017 file photo. 

ELKHART — Elkhart County suffered the largest decrease in weekly average wages in the nation from March 2018 to March 2019, according to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday.

In that period, average weekly wages in Elkhart County decreased by 7.6 percent, from just above $1,000 to $930 per week. 

Olmsted County, Minnesota, suffered the nation’s second-worst average wage decrease at 5.1 percent. The country as a whole saw an increase of 2.8 percent.

Manufacturing employees in Elkhart County took the brunt of the decline, with a decrease in wages of 12.7 percent – about $137 per week.

This year’s RV shipments are down about 20 percent from last year so far, with 2018 being down more than 4 percent from the year before, which set a record high.

Some in the RV industry, including RVIA director of media relations Kevin Broom, have argued that the downturn is not a result of a decrease in RV sales but rather a reaction to dealers perhaps buying too much in the two previous years.

Others, including sources in a Wall Street Journal article published Monday, have pointed out that multiyear decreases in RV shipments have historically predicted national recessions.

According to Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Levon Johnson, it’s important to keep in mind how well things have been going in Elkhart County.

“My initial response is, it’s a reflection on how well the economy was doing the last two years, when you look at where wages were,” he said.

Johnson said many manufacturing employees have gone from working overtime to now working 40 hours, or even four- or three-day weeks at some places.

“That has an impact on wages, clearly,” he said.

But comparing year-to-year has its dangers, Johnson believes. When you set a record high, as the RV industry did in 2017, the year after will most likely look disappointing if you only look at the record and forget about the long term.

“Peyton Manning threw 52 touchdowns one year and threw, I think, somewhere between 35 or 40 the next year, and people were asking what was wrong with him,” Johnson said.

After the Great Recession a decade ago, which led to a 20 percent unemployment rate in Elkhart in 2009, local politicians spoke often about diversifying the economy, but the RV industry clearly continues its local dominance, leading the county through big ups and downs, often being the nation’s worst or best.

This month, the city began work on its Elkhart 2040 plan, which is supposed to be an economic development plan at a scale never seen before in the city. One of the people leading the effort, Shelley Moore, said in July that the RV industry will eventually leave Elkhart, as did pharmaceuticals and, to a large extent, band instrument manufacturing.

The plan is supposed to help the city prepare for that day by creating ways to attract new industries and new talent.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, which accounts for the 356 largest counties in the nation, Elkhart was the only one of the eight included Indiana counties to see a decrease in average wages.

Neighboring St. Joseph County experienced a 0.8 percent average wage increase.

The report also shows that employment in Elkhart County decreased by 1.8 percent, which is the fifth worst decrease in the nation. No other Indiana county included in the report saw a decrease in employment.

The nation’s high achiever in average wage increase was San Francisco County, California, with a 10.2 percent increase. Midland County, Texas, had the largest employment increase in the nation with 5.8 percent.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

(8) comments

sidearm

Question for Ms Moore. Why do you think the RV makers will move out of the area? I think you are just fear mothering. You should be ashamed. Typical lib bs.


Joe King

The same reason Mile-->Bayer left....All it takes is a state like IL, MI, OH to offer better incentives, tax breaks, etc to lure them away...just like the bidding war for Amazon.... Your mentality of not thinking about the future and only about today is typical GOP mentality...How quickly did you forget about the recession of 2008? Or the one before? Or when Miles left? Soon to be CTS,,,, Out of sight, doesn't mean out of mind..... Plan today for the next 10,15,20 years.....DIVERSIFY!


sidearm

Miles or Bayor or the band instrument companys are poor examples Joe. They were all unionized companys that required very little space to operate. In those cases, with the exception of band instruments, very little physical labor was involved so moving out was easy. RV's are a very different animal all together, not unionized, large real estate and buildings required and a great deal of physical labor along with a local supply base. None of these are easy to move. The RV Industry will be here until they try to unionize. My question was for Ms Moore, whom I believe is not qualified to answer it and was fear mongering for no reason.


Joe King

Trickle down economics at its finest....Curious....what are the CEO salaries of the 3 largest RV dealers? Did they drop too? Yeah, thought so....


KATT

Really Snarky? You have the data? You have no idea what the CEO salaries are, most of it is performance based.


correction

Given some of the companies are public you can absolutely see the breakdown of their wages. Try again KATT


sidearm

You are a broken record. Everything not socialist is bad. Why are you so jealous? You need help Joe.


Joe King

I don't think you know what that word means... I mean really....public schools? Police?, Fire Dept?, Military?Public Roads? Libraries? Postal Service? Public Landfills? Farm Subsidies? CIA? FBI? Polio Vaccine? EPA? Social Security? Museums? Jail/Prison? VA Healthcare/subsidies? Public Parks? Food Stamps? Sewers? FDA? Healthcare for 9/11 rescuers? etc, etc, etc..... Your against these? Like I said, I don't think you know what that word means....


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