Doug Gaeddert

Doug Gaeddert

The March unemployment rate in Indiana’s Elkhart County dropped to 5.8%, its lowest level in six years, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development announced Monday (April 21).

And yet the county’s rate has been much lower at times when it was easier for employers to find workers.

The Elkhart Truth reported that in the year 2000, the rate hovered in the 2% range all year. For the seven-plus years from 2001 through March 2008, the last time it was as low as 5.8%, the rate averaged 4.6%.

But take a ride down C.R. 6, or through any industrial area in Elkhart County, and you’ll see many companies posting “now hiring” signs out front.

Doug Gaeddert, a general manager at Forest River Inc. and chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), says the county seems to be at “virtual zero” unemployment. He said he thinks the community has simply grown lazier.

“Whether it’s cultural, whether it’s policy driven, (virtual zero) is higher because there aren’t enough folks that want to get up and bust their butts every day, plain and simple,” Gaeddert said following a recent meeting RVIA hosted to address a shortage of RV transport drivers. “It’s part federal government (for making unemployment benefits too plentiful), part cultural shift, but if you want to ask me, do I think we’re lazier than we were seven or eight years ago, absolutely. Go back and look, 3.5% or 4%, we were fully employed. Now it’s 6 percent, we’re fully employed. Why do you think?”

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