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ANDERSON — The local economy has recovered from the last recession, according to an economics professor at Ball State University.

During the annual Business Outlook forecast at the Anderson Rotary Club on Tuesday, Dagney Faulk, the director of the Center for Business Research at Ball State University, said Anderson and Madison County have recovered from the recession that started in 2007 and ended in 2013.

She said Madison County’s unemployment rate in September was 3.1% and the labor force has been steady at between 59,000 and 60,000 people.

Faulk said 57,000 people were employed, which is at the prerecession employment levels.

In comparison, she said, there were 53,000 people employed in 2010 to 2012.

Faulk said the average weekly wage is $752, which is an increase of 2.3% over the past year, but still trails the average wage in Indiana of $1,000.

The local housing market is tight, she said, and there is pressure on housing prices which are on the increase. Faulk noted the average house on the market was sold within 50 days.

There has been a 2% decrease in the number of local households receiving food stamps, Faulk said.

“There are a number of positives for the area,” Faulk said. “Employment numbers are up and remain stable and housing sales have picked up.”

She wondered why Madison County has not grown as quickly as surrounding Hamilton County.

Faulk said educational attainment in the county lags behind surrounding counties.

“School quality is important,” she said. “Families looking to locate look at school systems and Madison County is facing stiff competition.”

Faulk said Madison County has lots of amenities.

She said good quality schools are what families are looking for and it’s not a simple thing to make improvements.

“It’s not one or two years, it will be a decades long process,” Faulk said. “There has to be a communitywide focus on improving the schools.”

She said there needs to be an improved curriculum starting in the middle school in terms of higher technology classes.

Catherine Bonser-Neal of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University said it’s important for businesses to maintain a dialogue at all levels of the education system.

“There is a transformation taking place,” she said. “The education system has to be involved in reinforcing work skills.”

Mark Frohlich of the Kelley School of Business said half of the job applicants in Indiana fail the drug tests and don’t have the right work ethic.

He said people taking jobs are not meeting employers’ expectations of showing up to work on time and working an eight-hour shift.

Concerning the Indiana economy, Frohlich said the state’s economy is expected to grow by 1.25% in 2020 as compared to a 1.5% to 2% growth rate this year.

He said consumer confidence is up, but it’s not in the manufacturing segment that is most prevalent in Indiana.

“The trade war uncertainty has caused turbulence in manufacturing and agriculture,” Frohlich said. “Right now, a lot of companies are holding onto cash. Money is not being invested in upgrading equipment and training.”

Indiana is lagging behind the nation in terms of economic growth and wage increases, he said.

“There are dark clouds on the horizon,” Frohlich said. “Next year will give Indiana another year to prepare for a recession that we all know is coming.”

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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