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Published: Saturday, 5/17/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Ohio jobless rate falls to 5.7%

Percentage is lowest since 2008, government hiring is on rise

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Ohio’s unemployment rate in April fell to 5.7 percent, the lowest rate the state has seen since February, 2008.

The jobless rate was down from 6.1 percent in March and from 7.3 percent in April, 2013, according to the monthly labor market report by the state Department of Job and Family Services.

The U.S. unemployment rate in April was 6.3 percent, down from 6.7 percent in March.

Nonfarm wage and salary employment rose by 12,600 in April to a total of 5,297,600. That was up from 5,285,000 in March, the report said. The number of workers who were unemployed in Ohio in April totaled 328,000, a decrease of 26,000 from March’s 354,000.

While the numbers appeared to be good news for Ohio’s labor market, Policy Matters Ohio — a nonprofit, nonpartisan state policy research institute — cautioned that the state still struggles with below-average job growth.

The last 12 months, the seasonally adjusted number of nonfarm jobs has increased only 1.1 percent, underperforming national growth of 1.7 percent, Policy Matters Ohio said.

“It’s a relief to see a good monthly number,” said Hannah Halbert, work force researcher with Policy Matters Ohio. “But without accounting for population growth, the state needs to add another 120,600 jobs just to make up for those lost in the 2007 recession.”

Jeff Korzenik, chief investment strategist for Fifth Third Bank, said the April labor market information “is still a good report and shows things are generally moving in the right direction.”

Mr. Korzenik, the bank’s chief economist, said the Ohio numbers reflect a lot of national trends.

“First, we are seeing new payroll growth, but we’re also seeing more people dropping out the work force,” he said.

But those leaving the work force aren’t necessarily young, discouraged workers, Mr. Korzenik said. “They are mostly older baby boomers nearing retirement,” he said.

“Remember, the baby boom started with those in 1946. So many of those dropping out of the work force, they’re in their latter 60s. Many have pensions, and their ability to retire and maintain a lifestyle is significant,” Mr. Korzenik said.

Another U.S. trend reflected in Ohio’s labor market is job growth in manufacturing, the economist said. In April, the state’s manufacturing sector gained 2,100 jobs.

“Manufacturing is an area of strength in job creation in the U.S.,” Mr. Korzenik said.

“Reshoring,” or the return of manufacturing plants to the United States from overseas, is accelerating, he added.

One development in the April report that looks promising, the economist said, is government employment increasing by 4,600 jobs at the local, state, and federal level within Ohio.

Restraint in spending at all government levels “is one of the main factor in keeping economic growth limited,” Mr. Korzenik said. “But we think that trend has turned.

“Tax receipts are up … and we are seeing governments taking those tax receipts and reinvesting, with local governments taking on new infrastructure projects.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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