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Published: Saturday, 1/19/2008

Michigan, now 7.6%, still leads U.S. with highest unemployment rate; Ohio at 6%

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Economists said Ohio's 6 percent jobless rate in December could jump more this year as the state's manufacturers continue to cut jobs or freeze employment levels.

The numbers "are very much in line nationally and in what we've seen in other labor markets. The economy is in the process of slowing down," said economist Jim Coons, of J.W. Coons Advisors LLC in Columbus.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said yesterday the unemployment rate grew from 5.6 percent in November while the number of jobless rose 27,000 and the number working dropped 3,900 last month. A year ago, the state jobless rate was 5.6 percent.

In Michigan, the rate went to 7.6 percent last month, and employment for the year fell 90,000. Michigan had the highest jobless rate in the nation, as it did in November.

Nationally, unemployment jumped to 5 percent in December from 4.7 percent the month before, considered a large one-month change.

"The way to look at it is we're a notch worse here in Ohio than much of the rest of the country," said economist Ken Mayland, of ClearView Economics in suburban Cleveland. Ties to the struggling auto industry contribute to the problem, he added.

Ohio jobless rates were about 5.7 percent for last year, up from 5.4 percent the year before but down from 6 percent in 2004 and 2005. "We're going to stay this way for as long as I can see," Mr. Mayland said.

Terry Terhark, president of RightThing Inc., of Findlay, a company that handles mass hiring for many large companies, said hiring continues for workers with technical skills and health-care expertise.

"We are seeing continued strong demand for those knowledge workers," Mr. Terhark said. "But the job market is flattening with regard to hourly workers."

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



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