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VIDEO #2: Elkhart is No. 1 Now in a Good Way

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November 4, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

MSNBC.com spent time in Elkhart, Ind., last year as part of The Elkhart Project to study how that community struggled with the recession and RV downturn. Read a brief MSNBC.com story below, view today’s Featured Video #2 or click here.

In the depths of the recession, Elkhart, Ind., held an unenviable title: The metropolitan area was suffering from the highest year-over-year increase in its unemployment rate in the nation.

Now, it can claim a much more optimistic mantle: On Wednesday (Nov. 3), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the Elkhart metropolitan area saw the biggest improvement in its unemployment rate in the nation in September, as compared to a year earlier.

Of course, Elkhart – like the rest of the nation – isn’t out of the woods yet.

The area’s unemployment rate stood at 13% in September, 3.1 percentage points lower than in September of 2009. That’s still well above both the national unemployment rate, which is hovering around 9%, and far from where community would like to be in order to see its economy fully rebound.

But it’s a vast improvement over 2009, when the metro area’s unemployment rate hit a high of 20.1%.

The community had been devastated by the recession and economic crisis, which dealt a fierce blow to the area’s all-important RV industry. The hardship drew national attention after President Obama made several visits to the area.

A team of editors, writers and multimedia producers from msnbc.com also spent a year in Elkhart, following the community’s struggles closely. The Elkhart Project covered everything from the city’s efforts to reinvent itself to the devastating effect the economy has had on everyone from teens to the elderly.

Chances are, many in Elkhart aren’t surprised by the reversal of fortunes. Even back in 2009, many there said the area tends to be the among the first in the nation to go into recession, and also among the first to lead us out of recession.

That’s because RVs are the type of big-ticket discretionary item that people tend to stop buying soon as the economy starts to turn sour. The credit crunch, which made it hard for people to get financing for things like RVs, made matters even worse for companies in Elkhart this time around.

These days, many in Elkhart are feeling cautiously optimistic.

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