SOUTHERN INDIANA — When it comes to employee earnings in Clark and Floyd counties, more money is staying in local residents' pockets than what is escaping across the Ohio River or to outlying counties.

That bodes well for Southern Indiana's economic health — though an argument can be made that earnings leaving the region might not be such a bad thing.

A glance at the latest influx and outflow of commuter earnings from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Clark and Floyd counties pocketed a combined $1.1 billion in 2017. 

Clark County in 2017 had an earnings inflow (residents who work outside the county but bring their paychecks home) of $1.7 billion, and an outflow (money earned by people who work in the county but live elsewhere) of $1.4 billion. Floyd County's inflow was $1.6 billion, with an outflow of $781 million.

Subtract inflow from outflow and Clark County had a positive residential adjustment — or "surplus" — of $347 million, while Floyd's was a whopping $792 million, which ranked 10th in the state.

A positive residential adjustment "means that more money is earned by residents of a given county from outside that county than what is earned by people from other counties working inside that county," said Matthew Vonkerczek, an economist with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. "A positive residential adjustment is saying that commuting is more beneficial to the county because of the net money coming in. Conversely, a negative adjustment means a county is losing income because of commuting."

Looking at it another way: For every dollar leaving Clark County in 2017, it had $1.26 coming back in. Floyd kept $2.01 for every dollar that disappeared into another county.

But commuter earnings is not so green and white.

Workers who commute into Clark and Floyd counties significantly contribute to Southern Indiana's economy and its growth, according to Uric Dufrene, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Indiana University Southeast.

Those workers are driving into Southern Indiana for a reason.

"It means that both Floyd and Clark have the type of number of jobs that workers are willing to commute, and it suggests that both counties are able to attract labor from outside," Dufrene said. "This is critically important to the growth of both counties, and is something that you would expect in a vibrant, regional economy."

Attracting workers from the outside "is essential to growing county businesses," he added.

River Ridge is a prime example: The behemoth commerce center is likely a big reason why Clark County's outflow is far less than Floyd's.

"In order for River Ridge to continue growing, it must attract workers from outside the county," Dufrene said. "These workers will then take those earnings back to their home county." 

Southern Indiana historically has fared well when it comes to pocketing commuter earnings. Clark County netted $248 million in 2007, ranking 19th in the state, while Floyd County was in the black by $569 million, ranking 11th.

A commuting snapshot also paints an interesting picture.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of Clark County residents in 2017 worked in their home county, 18 percent worked outside the county and 33 percent worked outside of Indiana. In Floyd County, 42 percent of residents worked in their home county, 25 percent worked outside the county and 33 percent worked in another state.

Data from STATS Indiana shows that the top five areas sending workers into Clark County are, by rank: Floyd County, Kentucky, Harrison County, Washington County and Scott County. The top five areas heading to Floyd are: Clark County, Harrison County, Kentucky, Washington County and Scott County.

And, just in case you were wondering, the most popular commuting time in Clark County was 15 to 19 minutes, while in Floyd it was 20 to 24 minutes.

Interestingly, 86 percent of people in both counties drove to work alone; only 8 percent in both counties car-pooled. (Less than 1 percent in both counties took public transportation).

Whether it's by car or truck or bus, commuters making their way into Southern Indiana contribute to a healthy economy.

"Workers who live in other counties will also purchase goods and services in both Floyd and Clark counties," Dufrene said, "thus contributing to growth in the respective counties."

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