By GRACE WYLER
Unemployment in Youngstown reached its highest level in more than 15 years in March.
The city’s jobless rate rose to 15.1 percent, up from 14.5 percent in February and 13.6 percent in March 2009, the state reported Tuesday.
Youngstown has not seen unemployment rates above 15 percent since 1994.
In Warren, unemployment rose to 14.4 percent in March, up from 14 percent in February.
Warren actually saw a decrease in the jobless rate last month compared with March 2009, when the rate was 14.6 percent.
Unemployment in the Mahoning Valley overall has risen significantly since last year.
Combined unemployment for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties reached 14.5 percent last month, up from 12.9 percent in March 2009.
In Mahoning County, the jobless rate rose to 14.4 percent last month, up from 13.7 percent in February. The county unemployment rate was 12.3 percent in March 2009.
Trumbull County saw unemployment rise to 14.7 percent, up from 14.4 percent in February.
Columbiana County posted a decrease in the jobless rate in March, although unemployment remained high at 14.3 percent.
High unemployment is a continued effect of the recession, said Gloria Mathews, communications director for OneStop employment agencies in Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
“The economy basically hit a wall, and as things slowed down, it caused a chain reaction,” Mathews said. “It takes a while for all of that to work through the system.”
Last month’s overall rise in unemployment, compared to February’s 14.1 percent rate, cannot be attributed to any major layoff events, Mathews added.
“The numbers are up from previous months but we haven’t seen a lot of layoffs,” she said. “Things go up and down.”
Despite the bleak statistics, Mathews is optimistic that unemployment numbers will decrease as the economy picks up.
“What we are seeing now are a lot of very positive signs,” Mathews said. “We are seeing smaller companies contact us, and we are anticipating there will be major hirings coming along.”
But unemployment in the Mahoning Valley remains significantly higher than the state average.
The Ohio unemployment rate rose to 11 percent last month, its highest point in more than 25 years.
Clinton County recorded 18.7 percent unemployment last month, the state’s highest. Highland, Ottawa, Morgan, Noble, Pike, Meigs, Huron, Adams and Monroe counties all posted unemployment rates above 16 percent.
Delaware County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state, at 8.4 percent.