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The IBR is a publication of the Indiana Business Research Center at IU's Kelley School of Business

Bloomington forecast 2019

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Director, Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana University Kelley School of Business

Local economic output has its ups and downs

The overall economy of the Bloomington Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Monroe and Owen counties, grew by 7.4 percent from 2007 through 2017, a respectable (though modest) rate of growth. Pulling all industries together, the MSA’s gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $6.4 billion in 2017, the highest level in over a decade.

Not all industries fared equally well in output growth, however. Of the major sectors, government (including government enterprises) grew at the fastest rate—18.1 percent—over a 10-year span from 2007 to 2017. Not far behind was the educational services, health care and social assistance sector at 14.6 percent. And hot on this sector’s heels at 13.8 percent was the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services sector—a longtime staple of the Bloomington-area economy.

Looking at more finely detailed industries, professional, scientific and technical services led the way with blistering growth of 65 percent over 10 years. Close behind was management of companies and enterprises at 45 percent. These sectors tend to pay above-average wages, so their impressive growth has been quite helpful to the area’s economy.

Some sectors shrank over this 10-year period, including the administrative, support, waste management and remediation services sector (-25 percent), real estate, rental and leasing (-24 percent), and construction (-20 percent).

Population growth

The Bloomington metro area’s population grew from 2010 to 2017 by 5.2 percent, higher than the average growth rate for the state as a whole. This suggests the local area continues attracting new residents and encouraging existing residents to stay. The MSA population in 2017 was estimated to be 167,825. Migration to Bloomington (home to Indiana University) from other countries totaled more than twice the area's natural increase (i.e., births minus deaths).

Employment growth

The local metro area added 826 jobs in 2017, mainly in the private sector, with average wages more than $1,800 above the prior year. Among the sectors adding the most jobs were accommodation and food services (+330), administration and waste services (+181), and manufacturing (+157). Sectors experiencing declining employment over the year included retail trade (-101 jobs), wholesale trade (-63), and finance and insurance (-89).

Unemployment rate

Indiana’s 15 metro areas generally experienced relatively low unemployment rates over the past 12 months, with averages ranging from 2.4 percent in Elkhart-Goshen to 4.5 percent in Gary. Unemployment in the Bloomington MSA averaged in the middle of the pack at 3.7 percent, a respectable figure.

Personal income

Personal income is the income received by, or on behalf of, all persons in an area from all sources, including employment, owning a home or an unincorporated business, owning financial assets, and from government and businesses in the form of transfer receipts (e.g., welfare and social security benefits).

The most recent real (i.e., adjusted for inflation) personal income data at the time of this writing reveal that per capita personal income (PCPI) in the Bloomington MSA was $36,926 in 2016. This figure is below those of several Indiana MSAs, but higher than the PCPIs of metro areas such as Muncie, Terre Haute and Lafayette. It’s also well below the U.S. PCPI for 2016—a lofty $50,891. However, a relatively low PCPI is not unusual in college towns, as many residents have modest incomes while focused on their studies.

Outlook for the year ahead

All in all, Bloomington’s outlook for 2019 calls for continued growth that’s faster than Indiana’s growth rates in population, jobs and income, with unemployment remaining at a moderate level.