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Published: Wednesday, 5/25/2011

Jobless rate falls below 10% in Toledo

Reading lowest since late '08; other area counties show drops

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Toledo's jobless rate lost a digit last month, one it won't be looking to reclaim anytime soon.

For the first time since October, 2008, the city of Toledo's unemployment rate fell below 10 percent in April, to 9.7 percent, down from 10 percent in March and from 12 percent in April, 2010, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said Tuesday.

Similar drops occurred across northwest Ohio, with Hancock County holding the lowest in the region at 7.4 percent. Ottawa County, with the fifth highest rate among Ohio's 88 counties, had its rate fall from a state-high 16.2 percent in March to 12.6 percent in April.

"We're seeing more jobs. Nowhere near the quantities that we'd like to see, but it is improving," said Mike Veh, workforce development manager at The Source, Lucas County's one-stop shop for jobless benefits. "Some of the jobs are coming in at higher wages than what we've seen in the recent past, and there has been some seasonal hiring as well. In general, the numbers are coming back up. It's just been a real slow, steady increase."

The last time Toledo's unemployment was below 10 percent there were 13,500 out of work. But today, 14,000 are jobless, by state estimates. The city's jobless rate reached a peak of 14.3 percent in June, 2009, when an estimated 21,200 people were actively seeking work.

Of Ohio's large cities, Toledo's 9.7 percent rate was higher than the 7.3 percent in Columbus, the 8.4 percent rate in Cincinnati, and the 9.5 percent jobless rate in Cleveland, but lower than the 10.1 percent rate in Dayton or the 10.7 percent jobless rate in Youngstown.

Lucas County's 9.3 percent rate was tied for 40th highest among Ohio's counties.

"It's obviously headed in the right direction," said Jim Coons, an economist and head of J.W. Coons Advisors LLC in Columbus. "What's going on is that layoffs have come down.

"The other shoe that we're still waiting for is for hiring to pick up. Manufacturing has improved in recent months, but I think it says something when you celebrate the unemployment rate getting back to single digits."

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



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