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Joblessness in region falls in month, year

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Unemployment rates throughout northwest Ohio dropped in May from both the month before and a year ago, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said Tuesday.

In Lucas County, the rate fell to 11.5 percent last month from 12.2 percent in April. It was 12.7 percent a year ago.

Rates in each of the four metro Toledo counties - Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa - declined last month from April and are below the levels a year ago. Toledo's rate also dropped to 12.1 percent in May, from 12.7 percent in April and 13.6 percent a year ago.

George Zeller, a labor economic research analyst in Cleveland, said the unemployment comparison to watch is that from the year before. Even with the drop from a year earlier, Lucas County's 11.5 percent is too high, he said.

And unemployment claims this month show the Toledo area continues to lose jobs, he added.

"It is improving, but it is not improving nearly enough yet," Mr. Zeller said.

Keith Ewald, labor market analyst with the state job services office, said the downward trend is a good sign, but ideally the statewide unemployment rate - which was 10.7 percent in May - would be 5 percent to 6 percent.

Structural changes, particularly in the auto industry, which is focused on streamlining, will play a part in keeping unemployment rates higher than they were before the recession, Mr. Ewald said.

"It will probably be fairly prolonged before we get to those numbers again, partially because the recession was as deep as it was," he said.

Elsewhere in northwest Ohio, the unemployment rate in Ottawa County - which at times has topped 18 percent during the economic downturn and had been the state's worst - was 10.8 percent in May.

Huron and Williams counties last month shared northwest Ohio's highest rate: 12.7 percent.

Huron County's rate had been the state's worst at times during the economic downtown.

Hancock County had the lowest jobless rate in May in northwest Ohio at 9.4 percent, down from 10 percent in April and 10.3 percent a year ago.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.

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