Elkhart County unemployment rate now Indiana's lowest

Elkhart County has come full circle-statistically.

The place with the highest unemployment rate in the state during the depths of the recession now has the lowest.

Elkhart County’s February jobless rate of 3.3 percent was the lowest among Indiana’s 92 counties, and it is no fluke. Elkhart’s unemployment rate has been three point something for 19 of the past 24 months.

The new state-wide designation came as no surprise to management at State Wide Windows. “We are not adequately staffed. We are continually looking. We need approximately 10 more employees just to kind of hit our sales goal for this year,” said State Wide Windows Operations Manager Irvin Kontowsky.

The situation at State Wide is pretty much the same county-wide.

“You never want to say there's anything bad about the lowest unemployment rate in the state and there's not, but the challenge is finding enough qualified workers,” said Kyle Hannan with the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. “What an outstanding problem to have, I'm really glad we have it, but it's still a challenge”

It’s a big challenge that State Wide Windows is using the big screen to meet. Its’ help wanted ads now appear at movie theatres but the company’s key to survival is keeping the employees it already has.

80 percent of State Wide’s workers have been on the job three or more years, and 70 percent are women.

“Well they're very family oriented. I've got a young son so in the event that he is sick and I need to take that time off they are understanding about that,” said Lindsey Mansfield.

“We also have a really cool policy in the winter. If Elkhart County offers a snow emergency or a half day or a day off we don't' penalize our employees with taking that time off so it allows them obviously to take care of the kids, they don't have to scramble for babysitters,” said Kontowsky.

State Wide also offers a non-traditional work week. Employees put in four-nine hour days-and then work from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. on Friday. That leaves workers with kids the rest of the day to make school or doctor appointments.

Statewide makes roughly 80 percent of the nation’s truck cap windows.

The workforce current stands at 133 although the company has a need for 10 additional workers.

“Everything’s booming. Downside is, it’s booming and we’re all struggling for anybody that wants to work,” said Kontowsky.

LaGrange County had the state's second lowest jobless rate in February while Kosciusko County had the fifth lowest.