Ohio’s economy closed out the year on a positive note, with employers adding more than 10,000 jobs in December, state officials said Friday.
However, the state’s unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent last month, which is unchanged since October. It also was slightly higher than December, 2015, when the statewide jobless rate was 4.8 percent. The reason for the higher unemployment rate in 2016 was more people looking for work.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December.
The year-end report drew mixed reactions Friday.
“While last month’s job gains looked strong, we only saw gains in seven out of 12 months last year,” said Hannah Halbert, a researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal leaning think tank. “Overall, Ohio job growth last year was weak.”
The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services said the state added about 42,000 jobs over the last 12 months.
George Zeller, a Cleveland-area economic research analyst, said the statewide job growth from December, 2015, to December, 2016, was a minuscule 0.6 percent. Mr. Zeller said U.S. job growth over that same period was 1.6 percent.
“Ohio’s job growth rate has been below the U.S. national average for 48 of the last 49 months, with only one month, July, 2016, above the U.S. national average during the past four years,” he said.
Even so, economists say there were positive signs in the state’s December report.
“I thought overall the numbers were pretty good. We’ve had a couple months now of fairly decent job growth and it tells me that some of the weights that were on Ohio’s economy in 2016 are starting to lift and we’re going into 2017 in better shape than we were a couple of months ago,” said Mekael Teshome, an economist with PNC Financial Services Group.
Mr. Teshome pointed to growth in manufacturing employment and a stabilization in energy jobs as positive signs. And while the U.S. auto industry isn’t anticipating the same continued growth in 2017 that it saw in recent years, new car sales are still at very high levels, which should boost the Ohio economy.
Mr. Teshome also said the state could stand to gain from increased infrastructure spending from Washington if the Trump Administration follows through with campaign promises. Much of that economic policy, though, is far from clear.
Late last year, Gov. John Kasich suggested Ohio might be nearing a recession, based primarily on state tax revenues falling below projections.
While Mr. Teshome said those can be a good metric of the economy, he doesn’t see recession coming in 2017.
“I’m not forecasting a recession, at least in 2017. Ohio’s recovery from the Great Recession has definitely been bumpy and there’s been moments where it felt better and moments where it didn’t feel that good,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say we could continue to see some bumpiness in terms of job growth, but I’m not forecasting a recession.”
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at email@example.com or 419-724-6134.
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