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Published: Saturday, 7/19/2003

Local unemployment hits 8.4 percent in June

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

First, there was a three-month layoff last fall blamed on a sluggish economy and rumblings of war.

That was followed by another layoff that included an ominous suggestion that he begin searching for a new job.

Finally, the Toledo steel plant where he had earned more than $19 an hour called it quits after 39 years.

“I've been looking, but there's nothing out there except McDonald's and Burger King,” said the 34-year-old husband and father from East Toledo who spoke on the condition he wasn't identified.

Situations like his helped send unemployment in Lucas County to a 2003 high last month, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported.

Joblessness rose by 2,300 to 19,300 for an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent.

That compared to a May rate of 7.4 percent and a June, 2002, rate of 7.3 percent, state officials said. Including all of metro Toledo, nearly 25,000 people were jobless.

Lucas County's unemployment rate last month was higher than any other of Ohio's largest counties. Mahoning County, which includes Youngstown, was next highest at 7.9 percent.

Most of the increase was in the city of Toledo, where unemployment climbed to 9.8 percent last month.

But joblessness rose across northwest Ohio with all but two of 16 counties in the region recording increases and two-thirds exceeding the average Ohio rate of 6.3 percent.

The state unemployment rate was up from 6.1 percent in May.

Don Wonnell, an Ohio labor market analyst in Toledo, said that unemployment claims data showed that various social service agencies in Lucas County furloughed about 600 workers in June. He was unable to provide details, however.

There have been also been losses in the retail grocery industry caused by the closing of Food Town stores and in the construction industry.

It has also been a tough year for unionized construction workers, said Al Segur, head of a union umbrella group.

A quarter of the 2,000 members of Local 8 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are without jobs, said Mr. Segur, of the Northwest Ohio Building & Construction Trades Council.

Other construction unions also have suffered significant losses, although the picture is improving somewhat, he said. “It's a good news, bad news kind of thing,” he added. “But 25 percent unemployment is unacceptable when you're the guy that's laid off.”

Among firms that have announced closings is Baron Drawn Steel, which employed the East Toledo man who has been unable to find work.

The man said he has put in numerous applications but has had no interviews.

The September closing of the firm will affect about 125 active and furloughed workers officials have said.



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