A landmark study from the Brookings Institution suggests while Indiana has had one of the best recoveries from the pandemic, it still has many struggles to overcome. The first-ever study was conducted as part of the Indiana GPS Project, led by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, which was created to provide a comprehensive assessment of economic and workforce growth across all 92 counties. Among the key findings, the study shows while Indiana has the third-highest concentration of employment in advanced industries, those industries have been losing their productivity advantage since 2007.

The study, titled “State of renewal: Charting a new course for Indiana’s economic growth and inclusion,” says Indiana had regained 87% of the jobs lost during the pandemic by November, though the recovery slowed during the fall. 

Among the notable pre-COVID concerns cited by the study are a modest rate of employment growth and slow real median wage growth throughout Indiana.

Several challenges were identified to which the study suggests the state should respond. One of the challenges is a slip in advanced industry sector competitiveness, which has been caused underinvestment in IT. Indiana has also struggled more than other states to adjust to economic shocks, which has led to reallocation challenges for the state’s industries and workers, according to the study.

Additionally, the state has provided too few “good jobs,” which are described by Brookings as sustainable jobs that, for Indiana, pay at least $36,900 a year and provide employer health insurance. The study adds the ability to secure a good job may be limited by educational attainment.

“As the pandemic wanes, the desire to ‘get back to normal’ will be understandable, but the state would do well to see if it can also make moves now to emerge from the COVID year in better, more competitive and inclusive shape than before,” said Mark Muro, a Brookings senior fellow who co-authored the study. “Our hope is that the state, businesses, civic leaders, and regional organizations will find our work helpful to efforts to ensure Indiana emerges from the pandemic recession stronger than it was before it.”

The report makes recommendations to help Indiana achieve its goals, including accelerating digital adoption, promoting favorable job creation and worker transitions, and doing more to support workers who aren’t in good jobs.

Additionally, the study encourages the state to encourage digital skills development, address a lack of broadband connectivity, promote advanced industry growth throughout the state, address child care shortages and enlarge its earned income tax credit, among others.

Teresa Lubbers, the state’s commissioner for higher education and chair of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet says the report adds “new energy and fresh data” that support work already being done.

“While it highlights challenges facing our state, it also uplifts successful initiatives like the Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant that are helping Indiana build a stronger workforce and economy,” said Lubbers. “It makes a strong case for the value and opportunities that come with education and supports our state’s commitment for at least 60 percent of Hoosiers to have a quality credential beyond high school, which will, in turn, ensure employers have the talent needed to grow our economy and individuals can access jobs that provide economic mobility.”

You can view the full report by clicking here.

CICP Chief Executive Officer David Johnson will join Muro this weekend on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick to talk more about the report.