Elkhart Co. unemployment grows slightly as RV industry slows

ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - It appears that tariffs have had an impact on Elkhart County’s economy, although that impact is hard to gauge.

For instance, the sheer number of RVs shipped to dealers has dropped 22% through the first five months of this year compared to the same period a year ago.

“I don't know that that in itself is causing a slowdown,” said Levon Johnson of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. “Obviously, if we were to say that, it’s an awfully simplistic answer to throw all the blame there on tariffs.”

Johnson points out that the previous two years saw record-high shipments, and some of those units are still lingering on the lots.

A report from Reuters does say that 75% of the suppliers at Renegade RV in Bristol have demanded tariff-related price increases and that the company has reduced its workforce by about 10 employees since May.

“Ultimately, the consumer has to decide what they're willing to pay for a product, so it’s there, it’s real,” Johnson said. “Really, the competition now as folks try to figure out, businesses try to figure out who they're going to get their supplies from and try to avoid some of those tariffs, so there may be a company that was exclusively working with a place that was supplying certain things that now has 20 people going to that same company, so the speed at which you’re getting product is a little bit different.”

In June of 2018, Elkhart County had the second lowest unemployment rate in the state of Indiana. In June of 2019, it ranked 33rd lowest.

This June’s jobless rate of 3% is still seen as historically low and it is up from just 2.7% from last June.

While the number of unemployed persons in Elkhart County is up just 218 over the figure from June of last year, this June’s figure was up by 491 individuals compared to May of 2019.

“When we talk about those numbers, we're talking about people, and these are our neighbors and co-workers and friends and things like that. That’s real. But I think, given any other time and not coming out of those record years, 3% unemployment, we’d all be pretty excited about that,” Johnson said.