Food-Product Workers Bring Home the Bacon

Recent tabulations of workers covered under Indiana's unemployment insurance laws indicate that employment in the food-product industry is distributed among many Hoosier counties and across a wide range of specific industry categories. This industry group includes meat-packing plants and poultry processing along with the production of sausages and other prepared meats, bread, cake, candy, bottled and canned soft drinks, and potato chips and similar snack items. Also included are prepared feeds for livestock and fowl. "IN the Spotlight" presents detailed state-level information on Indiana's food-processing industry, while this section focuses on county data.

Figure 1 depicts the share of covered employment in the food-processing industry for each Indiana county. The 10 counties with the highest share of workers in food processing are somewhat scattered around the state, with six in the north and four in the south. Food's employment share in these top 10 counties ranged from 22.0% in Carroll County to 3.5% in Adams County. Less than 1% of the workforce was employed in the food industry in the majority of Hoosier counties, including 13 counties that report no workers in this industry.

Figure 1

While food-industry employment is relatively small on the state level, in a three-county region consisting of Clinton, Cass and Carroll counties (see Figure 2), the food industry is a major player in the local economy.

Figure 2

The three-county region accounts for only about 1% of the state's total employment and less than 2% of the state's population. However, the region accounts for 15% of the state's food-industry employment (see Figure 3), employing almost 5,000 workers.

Figure 3

Figure 4 indicates that growth in food-industry employment in this region has dramatically outpaced the state's growth in the food industry in the most recent 10-year period. Food-industry employment grew by 87% between 1989 and 1999 in the region, while the industry's growth rate for the state was only 3%. The growth rate for food-industry employment in Clinton, Cass and Carroll counties was three-and-a-half times the growth rate for total employment in the region.

Figure 4

From a state perspective, the food industry is a relatively small employer of Hoosier workers, and job growth in this industry has not kept pace with overall job growth rates for the state. However, for the three-county region consisting of Clinton, Cass and Carroll counties, the food industry employs a significant number of workers, and food employment in this region has grown rapidly since 1989.