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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Jobless picture is a dichotomy

Ohio unemployment rate falls, but few new jobs are created

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Ohio’s unemployment picture in March presented two opposite faces. The jobless rate fell past a significant milestone, and overall employment slowed to a crawl.

The state’s Department of Job and Family Services reported Friday that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate had dropped to its lowest point in six years — 6.1 percent — in March, down from 6.5 percent in February. A year ago the rate was 7.3 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in March.

Ohio will release county-by-county unemployment figures for March on Tuesday. In February the seasonally unadjusted rate for Lucas County was 7.3 percent.

Last month’s jobless rate was the lowest since April, 2008, when it was 5.9 percent. The number of unemployed workers in March fell by 24,000 to 353,000, which also marked the lowest figure in six years.

However, on the other side, a survey of Ohio’s employers found that they added just 600 jobs overall last month.

Employment was led by an increase of 4,800 jobs in the leisure and hotel sector.

The construction sector gained 4,600 construction jobs, while the professional and business services sector added 3,200 jobs.

Private education and health care added 2,400 jobs.

Countering those gains, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector cut 4,900 jobs, while manufacturing lost 3,500 jobs. The state said the number of government jobs fell by 3,200.

“When you see a four-tenths of a percent drop in the employment rate but only 600 jobs added, you’re going to take that [unemployment] number with a grain of salt,” said economist Ken Mayland of ClearView Economics in suburban Cleveland.

“Not to minimize year-over-year rates, because the construction industry, leisure and hospitality, and health services saw some nice gains. So there clearly is some kind of recovery continuing,” Mr. Mayland said.

“But I also did the arithmetic. Year-over-year on Ohio’s payrolls it’s about a 1 percent gain. The nation’s payrolls is at about 1.6 or 1.7,” he said.

“That means we’re generating jobs, but still not generating jobs as fast as the rest of the country,” the economist said. “We’re still experiencing a legacy effect. For a decade now, Ohio has underperformed compared to the rest of the country,”

Mr. Mayland said he is still waiting for Ohio to post a “high-quality” decline in the unemployment rate versus a “low-quality” decline. “You get a low-quality decline with people just dropping out of the work force and no longer looking for work,” he said.

“I want to see a high-quality decline, which is adding more jobs so that people are going back to work and the decline in the number of unemployed is real and there are no dropouts,” the economist said. “I want to see the unemployment rate go down by much better job generation.”

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also hit its lowest level in six years, falling to 7.5 percent in March. The rate was 7.7 percent in February.

Michigan’s jobless rate stood at 8.8 percent in March, 2013.

Last month’s rate was the lowest since a 7.3 percent figure in April, 2008.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget said Michigan’s civilian labor force rose 11,000 to 4.730 million in March, while the number of people working rose 19,000 to 4.375 million.

The state says 355,000 people were unemployed and seeking work in March, down from 363,000 in February.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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



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