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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Ohio unemployment rates gloomy

Figures show result of layoffs of seasonal help


For Toledo the unemployment rate was 11.3 percent in January, up from 10.5 percent in December. For Toledo the unemployment rate was 11.3 percent in January, up from 10.5 percent in December.
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Unemployment rates across metro Toledo and northwest Ohio shot up in January as seasonal workers were laid off, even as the rates for 2010 improved slightly as part of a regular yearly readjustment, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said Wednesday.

In Lucas County, the rate climbed to 11 percent in January from a revised 10 percent in December. For Toledo, the rate was 11.3 percent in January, up from 10.5 percent the month before.

The January rates also rose significantly in Wood, Ottawa, and Fulton counties, the rest of the metro Toledo counties.

In Wood, it went to 9.8 percent from 9.1 percent in December. In Fulton, it climbed to 12.8 percent from 10.7 percent in December, and in Ottawa, it rose to 18.9 percent from 16.5 percent the month before, a level that gives Ottawa County the highest jobless rate in Ohio.

The statewide rate, released last week, was 9.4 percent in January, down from 9.5 percent. The national rate two months ago was 9 percent.

George Mokrzan, chief economist with Huntington Bank in Columbus, said although the local unemployment figure jumped in January, the increase was not unexpected as retail establishments laid off seasonal help, construction crews are hampered by the weather, and manufacturing plants close for extended holidays. Still, he said, the general trend among economic indicators continues to be overwhelmingly positive.

"For the national manufacturing picture, the employment growth is as strong as it's been since the early 1970s," Mr. Mokrzan said. "There is some kind of revival going on in manufacturing. We just don't know yet if it's sustainable."

Keith Ewald, chief economist with the Ohio Bureau of Labor Market Information, said the annual adjustments to local unemployment rates, called benchmarks, seek to better track local employment information using updated information from a variety of sources. In the case of metro Toledo, the updated statistics show increased levels of employment and reduced numbers of unemployed from what was originally reported, Mr. Ewald said.

The adjustments pushed the metro Toledo rates down from the initial reported figures in 10 of the 12 months last year. The rates rose in only August and December. For the year, however, metro Toledo had an average jobless rate of 11.3 percent, down 0.8 percentage points from the 2009 average of 12.1 percent.

Over the course of the last three years, metro Toledo's jobless rate peaked twice at 13.4 percent, once in June, 2009, and again in January, 2010. The four-county metro area has not had an unemployment rate below double digits since December, 2008, when it stood at 9.9 percent, according to state estimates.

The state estimates metro Toledo had the most unemployed people seeking work in June, 2009, at 44,900 and the fewest jobs in January, 2010, at 281,000.

While Mr. Mokrzan said the lower unemployment figures are "basically consistent with an improving labor market story," he warned that growth could still be impeded by new challenges to the economy.

"It seems like this recovery just keeps hitting new headwinds," he said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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