State officials say Ohio’s nonfarm employment grew by more than 72,000 jobs over the past 12 months as the state’s unemployment rate dropped below the national average.
Data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services show Ohio’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December was 8.1 percent. That’s down from 8.5 percent in November and 9.5 percent in December, 2010. The U.S. unemployment rate for December, released two weeks ago, was 8.5 percent.
The news wasn’t all rosy, though.
The data show 21,000 Ohioans left the work force in December — something that has a large effect on the jobless rate.
“Just like the national numbers, a good portion of the drop of the unemployment rate is people for one reason or another choosing not to be part of the labor force. They’re of age to be employed but they’re not choosing to be part of the labor force,” said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Ecomomics in Cleveland.
That points to a level of discouragement with the job market for many would-be workers who have given up looking for work.
From December, 2010, to December, 2011, Ohio’s civilian work force declined by 85,000 workers. Officials also said the state shed 3,300 jobs in December.
Despite the loss of more jobs overall last month, Gov. John Kasich said he is “obviously pleased” with the trend. Among other things, he pointed to planned expansions by multiple automakers in Ohio, including Chrysler in Toledo.
“We’re on the right path, but we have a way to go,” he said. “The numbers are always going to jump around. I’ve been very cautious about declaring ‘mission accomplished.’ It’s clearly not. Mission is nowhere near accomplished.”
Of the 72,400 jobs that officials said were added in Ohio in 2011, the most significant gains were in educational and health services, trade, transportation and utilities, and professional and business services. Manufacturing also performed strongly, adding 18,300 jobs.
Mr. Mayland said things are turning around, albeit slowly.
“There has been some material improvement in the Ohio economy, the Toledo economy, because of the rebound of the auto industry. Manufacturing in general is doing pretty well and continues to grow,” he said.
Oddly, as the economic picture and attitudes improve, the jobless rate is likely to go back up.
“It’s a curious thing,” Mr. Mayland said. “If people keep dropping out of the labor force, the unemployment rate can keep going down. If people that are out of the labor force and unemployed start looking for work, the rate can go up — and substantially, by the way.”
The 8.1 percent jobless rate for December was the lowest since December, 2008, and closed out a year of lower unemployment for Ohio. The state’s preliminary average unemployment rate for 2011 was 8.8 percent, compared to 10.1 percent in 2009 and 2010.
“The economy has gotten better. We believe it will continue to slowly improve,” said Ben Johnson, a spokesman with the state department of job and family services. “You kind of get two different stories when you look narrowly and specifically at December and when you look broadly at what has happened over the last 12 months.”
Michigan’s unemployment rate for December, announced Wednesday, was 9.3 percent. It had been 9.8 percent in November and 11.1 percent in December, 2010.
Blade Columbus Bureau Chief Jim Provance and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: email@example.com or 419-724-6134.