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Published: Wednesday, 9/15/2010

Gains for jobless ranked high in Toledo

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The metro Toledo jobless rate fell 1.7 percentage points from June, 2009, to June, 2010, compared with an average no change among 100 large metro areas included in the Brookings Institution report released Tuesday.

The metro area consists of Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties. The only area that fared better was metro Detroit, which had a 2 percentage-point decline in its unemployment rate.

Overall, the study states, Toledo fared among the worst nationally in several economic indicators measured, including employment, housing prices, foreclosures, and total value of goods and services produced in the area.

Brookings profiles economic conditions among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, including 21 in the Great Lakes region. Other cities named among the report's 20 weakest were Youngstown and Detroit, although no specific rankings were given.

Howard Wial, a Brookings fellow, said Toledo's decline in unemployment is a bright spot among the area's bleak economic indicators.

"That is a good sign, but Toledo has a long way to go," he said.

Although Toledo's employment grew 0.7 percent between the first and second quarters of this year, the area still struggles with joblessness compared with the national average, the study found.

The metro area had the 86th-highest unemployment rate of 100 major cities, with 11.6 percent in June, 2010. That's compared with a national average of 9.6 percent during that same month.

Toledo's manufacturing sector grew by 2.5 percent between the first and second quarters of this year, while temporary Census jobs also contributed to the area's job gain, the report said. Mr. Wial expects economic indicators for the region to decline in the third quarter of this year because door-to-door work for the 2010 Census is complete.

Automotive jobs played a large role in local manufacturing growth, said Jim Coons, principal of Coons Advisors LLC in Columbus.

Transportation equipment jobs, which include positions at vehicle assembly plants and other auto-related firms, increased by 3,600 from June, 2009, to June, 2010, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

"They're down, they're distressed," Mr. Coons said of local automotive companies. "But they're up from their lows a year earlier."

The local housing market remained depressed during the second quarter. Toledo ranked 57th in the nation for foreclosures, with 3.51 foreclosed properties for every 1,000 sellable homes, the Brookings report said. That compared to an average of 3.99 foreclosures for every 1,000 sellable houses nationwide, and an average of 4.74 homes among cities in the Great Lakes region.

Home prices in metro Toledo declined 7 percent between June, 2009, and June, 2010, and dropped 23.2 percent compared with the market's peak during the first quarter of 2005, the report found.

Although Toledo is challenged by its weak housing market, Mr. Wial said prices could begin to bottom out. "I would expect to see housing prices in the region eventually rise," Mr. Wial said. "I can't say they're going to rise immediately."

Contact Sheena Harrison at

sharrison@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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