The area’s economy appears to be off to a good start in 2014, with job numbers up and unemployment rates down in Lucas County and in the city of Toledo.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said Tuesday that Lucas County’s estimated unemployment rate in February was 7.3 percent — down more than two full percentage points from last year. Moreover, it’s the county’s lowest February rate since 2008.
The city’s rate improved even more, falling from 10.1 percent in February, 2013, to 7.8 percent last month. The last time the city had a lower unemployment rate in February was 2007.
Economists caution against drawing too much from the state’s monthly data, as it is based on estimates and offers just a small snapshot in time. Still, the data points to an improving economy in 2014.
It’s the second straight consecutive in which year-over-year unemployment rates fell by at least two percentage points in Lucas County.
Jobless rates also fell from January, when the county’s unemployment rate was estimated at 8.1 percent and the city’s at 8.7. However, because the county rates are not seasonally adjusted, economists pay more attention to year-over-year changes than they do month-over-month.
Perhaps more telling than unemployment rates is the fact that more people are working. The state estimated February employment at 118,300 in Toledo and 191,000 in Lucas County. Both are the highest levels for February in several years.
Mekael Teshome, an economist with PNC Bank, said those are positive signs. He expects 2014 to be a more normal year with normal growth rates.
“A lot of the imbalances created during the bubble and the recession, those are now rebalancing,” he said.
One positive factor for this year — in Ohio and nationally — is that there’s much more certainty. Concerns about tax rates, the sequester, and the government shutdown are now in the rear-view mirror, giving businesses a more stable environment.
Mr. Teshome expects the United States to benefit from a stronger global economy.
“That’s particularly good for Toledo because it’s an exporting city,” he said. “Stronger exports are definitely a plus for the region.”
The February employment numbers for the rest of the Toledo area also showed improvement.
State officials said Fulton County’s February jobless rate was 8.1 percent, Ottawa County’s was 11.3 percent, and Wood County’s was 6.3 percent. All are down from January, but more importantly unemployment rates fell by more than a full percentage point from last year in all three counties.
Officials had said the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in February was 6.5 percent, which put it below the U.S. rate.
Federal officials said the U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in February.
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