LISBON, Ohio — As Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland kicked off a two-day swing through his former U.S. congressional district in eastern Ohio Friday, state employment numbers were released one last time before voters decide whether to re-elect him on Nov. 2.
Unemployment fell slightly to 10 percent in September from 10.1 percent in August, but the state's total number of employees in nonfarm jobs slipped by about 17,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Polls indicate a tight race between Mr. Strickland and Republican challenger John Kasich, and both campaigns used the numbers to support their arguments.
Mr. Strickland, a Democrat who as a former U.S. representative from Ohio's 6th District once lived in Lisbon, said the state's sixth consecutive month of declining unemployment rates shows the economy is improving under his direction.
He said Ohio's 17,300-employee drop was the result of high school and college students returning to school last month.
“That's a good sign because we want more and more of our young citizens to get a good education,” Mr. Strickland said. “That's why I'm proud that in my four years as governor, we've seen 65,000 more students enrolled in our public colleges and universities.
“Listen, we are not where we ought to be. We're working to improve, but we're doing a whole lot better than a lot of other states,” he said.
The drop in the number of employees was the fifth-steepest fall in the United States last month, and Ohio was one of 11 states with double-digit unemployment.
Neighbors Michigan (13 percent), Kentucky (10.1 percent), and Indiana (10.1 percent) have higher unemployment rates than Ohio.
The national unemployment rate in September was 9.6 percent.
Economists say the United States was in a recession from December, 2007, until June, 2009. They acknowledge that it will take much longer for the economy to rebound completely.
A spokesman from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said unemployment rates and employment totals are collected through different surveys, making it possible for both unemployment rates and job totals to decrease in the same month.
Unemployment rates are collected through surveys of households, where members may have left the labor force through retirement, relocation, or by ceasing to look for a job.
Employment totals are based on a survey of employers.
The Kasich campaign used the drop in total employees from August to September to highlight its primary talking point — that Ohio has lost more than 400,000 jobs since Mr. Strickland took office in January, 2007.
“Today we learned that Ohio lost an additional 17,000 jobs on Ted Strickland's watch, bringing his total to more than 415,000 jobs lost,” Kasich Communications Director Scott Wilburn said. “Not surprisingly, he can only smear and attack since he'd rather talk about anything but his disastrous record.”
Mr. Strickland spent the day traveling eastern Ohio in the Sportsmen for Strickland RV.
While he touched on Second Amendment rights throughout his six-city swing, his message was geared more toward his roots as a native of rural Scioto County in southeast Ohio, the investments he's made in technology, alternative energy, and education, and toward attacking Mr. Kasich's ties to Wall Street and Republican free-market policies.
Mr. Strickland, whose tour began outside his former congressional district yesterday in New Philadelphia, visited Carrollton before stopping in the 6th District's Lisbon, Steubenville, and Bellaire.
He finished his day in Bridgeport at the Bridgeport-Shadyside high school football game.
Mr. Strickland represented Ohio's 6th Congressional District in 1993 and 1994, and from 1997 through 2006.
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