Even with many plants continuing production as essential businesses during Indiana’s COVID-19 lockdown, the state’s manufacturing employment fell 16% from February to April.

Based on the latest data available from Stats Indiana, which ran through May, the state’s manufacturing employment reached a high point for the first half of the year in February at 532,900 jobs, then fell to a low of 448,800 in April.

May’s statewide manufacturing employment figure came in at 468,500.

But the month marked the low point for manufacturing employment in the Fort Wayne metro area, at 30,900. The number of manufacturing employees in the metro area had fallen from a high point in February of 38,000.

Stats Indiana’s most recent unemployment rate for the state was for May and came to 11.9% that month, compared with 13% for the United States. The state had an unemployment rate of 17% in April and 3.4% in February.

Stats Indiana is the statistical data utility for the state of Indiana, developed and maintained by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

The Indiana Manufacturers Association is conducting periodic surveys to gauge the needs of the state’s manufacturing community and monitor how COVID-19 is affecting Indiana’s largest economic sector.

Results of its second COVID-19 survey, conducted in June, had not been released by the end of that month. But the first survey taken in May showed a third of respondents were optimistic or very optimistic about the outlook for the next 6-12 months of the business where they worked

Only 1 out of 4 were pessimistic about the outlook and the rest saw it as stable. None were very pessimistic about it.

Responses for the same question dealing with a time frame of 18-24 months showed two-thirds were optimistic or very optimistic about the outlook; a little more than 1 out of 4 saw it as stable and only 6% were pessimistic about it. Again, none were very pessimistic about it.

“The results of this Indiana manufacturing survey are further evidence of the significant negative economic impact being felt by Indiana’s industrial sector. However, the survey respondents indicated increased optimism over the next 6 to 24 months,” Brian Burton, the association’s president and CEO, said in an announcement.

“Indiana is the most manufacturing intensive state in the country; and our Indiana businesses continue to step up and take on the challenges presented by the current pandemic.”

About 85% of respondents said they were able to continue production during Indiana’s COVID-19 lockdown because state officials classified them as essential businesses, and less than 5% said they shut down and had not yet reopened.

Orders for many Indiana manufacturers took a hit and were down more than 50% for about 1 out of 3 respondents. Orders were down 25% to 50% for 23% of respondents and were down 10% to 25% for 28% of them.

A little less than 7% of respondents saw orders actually improve.

About one out of four respondents suffered no supply chain disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak but 5% saw significant disruptions and 70% reported disruptions they considered manageable.

Only 8% of respondents saw no negative financial impact from the pandemic, while 30% saw significant impact and 62% experienced negative financial impact they considered manageable.

Questions in the June survey focused on what manufacturers in the state have been doing to minimize COVID-19 risks.

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