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Published: Wednesday, 3/13/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

ECONOMIC DATA

Jobless rate in Toledo hits 10.3%

Lucas Co. at 9.6%; layoffs after holidays cited in spike

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Hundreds of people line up in a downtown Cleveland park to attend a job fair. The Toledo area had an anticipated rise in unemployment after the holidays. Hundreds of people line up in a downtown Cleveland park to attend a job fair. The Toledo area had an anticipated rise in unemployment after the holidays.
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Postholiday layoffs caused a 2 percentage point spike in Toledo’s and Lucas County’s unemployment rate in January, with the county’s jobless rate hitting 9.6 percent and Toledo’s 10.3 — higher than in December and a touch higher than it was a year earlier, state officials said on Tuesday.

It’s the third straight month that the county’s unemployment rate has risen, but a jump from December to January is expected as extra holiday workers are laid off from their seasonal jobs.

State officials said the unemployment rate increased in every single one of Ohio’s 88 counties in January.

“It’s corresponding with the layoffs that come after the holiday season,” said Mike Veh, work force development manager at The Source of Northwest Ohio, Lucas County’s one-stop shop for unemployment services. “A lot of folks who pick up part-time or even full-time work during the holidays are then cut loose going into January.”

Though an increase is expected, it was a bit more dramatic this year than in prior years. From December, 2011, to January, 2012, for example, the Lucas County rate went from 8.4 percent to 9.4 percent.

Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Job and Family Services, said one reason for that bigger-than-usual jump could be that seasonal holiday hiring in Ohio masked some of the economic slowdown that the nation saw in the fourth quarter of last year.

But because local area unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted to smooth out those cyclical job losses, the rate spikes can seem more dramatic than they really are. For that reason, George Zeller, an economic research analyst based in Cleveland, said it’s not fair to compare one month to the next.

“It’s utterly meaningless,” he said. “It tells us nothing at all. These figures aren’t seasonally adjusted.”

A more appropriate comparison is to the figures from a year earlier. Both Toledo and Lucas County also saw small increases from 2012.

The January, 2012, unemployment rate in Lucas County was 9.4 percent. State data show there were 188,400 people employed in Lucas County in January, down 900 from the year prior. The state said there were 20,100 unemployed Lucas County workers in January, up from 19,600 in 2012.

The state said Ottawa County’s January unemployment rate of 13.9 percent was down from 15 percent a year earlier. 

Wood County’s rate was unchanged from January, 2012, to January, 2013, at 8.1 percent. 

Fulton County’s unemployment rate was half a percentage point higher in January, 2013, at 10.5 percent.

Mr. Veh couldn’t explain why Lucas County’s rate might have been higher in January than it was a year earlier, but he said a one-month aberration isn’t cause for concern.

“If we start seeing a consistent trend going that direction then it’s time to start looking at what’s going on, but as long as the overall pattern is a decrease in the unemployment that’s a positive trend,” he said.

And Mr. Veh said the Source has continually been seeing employers posting more jobs and higher-paying jobs in recent months. 

“Obviously every company doesn’t list jobs with us so we can only take a measure based on what comes through here, but it seems to me we’re getting jobs coming in at better pay levels,” he said.

Jim Brock, professor of economics at Miami University in southwestern Ohio, also said the trend in Ohio and its counties has been moving in the right direction. Not only have unemployment rates fallen, employers have created jobs, tax receipts have been up, and auto sales have increased, Mr. Brock said. 

Seeing rates jump one month isn't a sign that things are bound to get worse.

“We’re in a recovery and it’s fitful," he said. "Sometimes it’s one step back and two steps ahead, but as long as it’s more steps ahead than back, we’re working our way out of it.”

Still, the recovery hasn't been robust. “We are growing but the rate [of adding jobs] is too slow and is now below the national average for six months in a row,” Mr. Zeller said. “That is a problem.”

Where the economy goes from here remains to be seen, but there was a bit of positive prognostication Tuesday.

Manpower Group said Tuesday it expects metro Toledo employers to hire at a strong pace in the second quarter. The work force services provider said 17 percent of companies surveyed said they plan to increase staffing from April to June, while 4 percent planned to reduce staff. That works out to a “net employment outlook” of 13 percent, Manpower said.

“Hiring activity is expected to improve significantly during the second quarter of 2013 compared to the first quarter of 2013, when the net employment outlook was 2 percent,” Manpower spokesman Stacy Hammer said in a statement. 

“Employers expect slightly more robust employment prospects compared with one year ago, when the net employment outlook was 11 percent.”

Manpower said the best fields for job prospects in the coming quarter include manufacturing, transportation and utilities, and wholesale and retail trade. The group said jobs in construction and financial activities are expected to remain level.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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