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Published: Saturday, 5/21/2005

Unemployed get a glimmer of hope


They re still faint, but there are signs that employers both here and statewide are finally starting to hire.

Ohio s unemployment rate was 6.1 percent last month, down from 6.3 percent in March, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said yesterday.

That translates in to 6,400 more jobs in April than March and the number of workers unemployed last month dropped to 363,000 from 374,000.

That is a sign that there is some improvement occurring, said Dennis Evans, a department spokesman. We ll have to watch the next few months to see if that continues.

The jobless rate in Lucas County was 6.8 percent in April, down from 7.5 percent the previous month and from April, 2004. Toledo s rate also dropped, to 7.4 percent.

The national unemployment rate last month was unchanged at 5.2 percent.

The lower rates in Ohio and northwest Ohio are encouraging, but the area s heavy reliance on manufacturing means the rates will lag the national figure, said Randy Bateman, chief investment officer for Huntington Bank in Columbus.

Workers here are much more productive, which means fewer jobs, he said.

The gain in employment statewide last month was mostly because of jobs in the leisure and hospitality and professional and business services sectors.

That sounds about right to Mike Veh, a job developer at the Lucas County Work Force Development agency, who said there are more service-sector and fewer manufacturing jobs.

Northwest Ohio residents looking for work recently have had mixed experiences.

Jeannette Kennedy Bey has been a secretary for 15 years and figured she d have no trouble finding another job when she was laid off April 5. She s had a few interviews.

I m discouraged, said Ms. Kennedy Bey, 46. I ve worked all my life and can t be without work.

But Toledoan J.R. Hoppenjans, 33, who was out of work for 45 days after his company closed, landed a better-paying position as a regional sales manager for Premier Material Concepts of Findlay.

Hancock County, home to Findlay, had the lowest jobless rate last month in northwest Ohio, at 4.8 percent. Mr. Hoppenjans has an industrial marketing degree and a master s in business administration and said they helped him land his new job.

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