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Economy will continue to grow in 2020: What does this mean for Black people?

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The U.S. economy will continue to expand for a 12th consecutive year, though more slowly, and Indiana’s economic growth will be even more modest, according to a forecast released by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

As is always the case, the question for Black Americans is whether that growth — however moderate — will actually reach them.

The answer: You’ll have to wait and see.

That’s because it will take a proactive approach across multiple sectors to make it happen, economist Ian Nicolini said at a presentation Nov. 7 at IUPUI. The business school has presented a local, national and global economic forecast since 1972.

The local economy — including Indianapolis, Carmel and Anderson — is growing mostly due to jobs in advanced industries such as technology, Nicolini said, but a lot of the talent it takes to fill those jobs is coming from outside of the region.

This was one of the main concerns for critics who opposed Amazon’s second headquarter coming to Indianapolis. (Amazon announced last year its HQ2 will be split between New York City and Arlington, Virginia.)

“That does disproportionately impact communities of color,” said Nicolini, who is vice president for economic development at the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. “The data is pretty clear. That means you have to be intentional, and you have to be explicit about the challenges that you’re trying to overcome.”

Those challenges include skills training, transportation and child care.

“It requires policymakers to not rest on their laurels that the advanced industry sector is growing as the cure-all,” Nicolini said.

There could be some good news for local workers, though. The unemployment rate between Indianapolis and Carmel has been on a steady decline since 2010 and was 2.6% in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Kyle Anderson, a business economics professor, said that’s contributing to wage growth for more common workers, not just owners and the wealthy.

“Even though our forecast was kind of negative,” he said, “what we’re seeing is maybe better … more broadly across the wage spectrum.”

Anderson couldn’t say if that wage growth will specifically help Black people in Indianapolis. 

Wages have increased modestly, but the World Economic Forum reports hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, were the same for production and non-supervisory employees in March ($23.24) as they were in February 1973.

A 2018 study from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute showed productivity increased by 252.9% since 1979, while hourly compensation increased by 115.6%.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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