The pandemic had a bright silver lining for Elkhart, Ind.
The city, renowned as the capital of recreational vehicle production, had a surge in demand as cooped-up families took to the highways and avoided hotels. The cluster of manufacturers enjoyed record profits, and workers benefited as well: The metropolitan area’s unemployment rate sank to 1 percent in late 2021, and average weekly wages jumped 35 percent from their level in early 2020.
That frenzy, however, has turned to a chill. Dealers, who stocked up on as many trailers and vans as they could, have been discounting them to clear their lots — and new orders have dried up. The area has lost nearly 7,000 manufacturing jobs over the past year, and unemployment is now above the national average. Thor Industries, which owns a wide portfolio of RV brands, saw its sales tumble 39.4 percent from the quarter a year ago.