By Grace Wyler
Local residents looking for employment in the new year may be in the right place.
The Youngstown area was named one of the best cities to find a job this winter, according to a recent ranking by Forbes.com.
The national business-magazine website compiled the list based on data from employment services firm Manpower. The company surveyed 18,000 employers in the nation’s top 100 metropolitan regions on their hiring plans for the first three months of 2011.
Youngstown ranked fourth overall in a tie with the Sun Belt cities of Phoenix, Ariz., and Tulsa, Okla. The three cities each had a 12 percent employment outlook, which is the percentage of employers planning to hire minus those who plan to lay off workers.
The ranking “does align with what we have been seeing in the area,” said Walt Good, vice president of economic development for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber.
Although many local firms are still concerned about access to capital and the slow pace of the economic recovery, “we are seeing a trend of companies that are in the position to start creating jobs,” Good said.
Inventories that were stagnant during the recession have started to dwindle, and many Youngstown companies are starting to see an uptick in orders, added Bert Cene, director of the Mahoning Columbiana Training Association, which oversees work-force development.
“Obviously we are moving in the right direction with the decline in unemployment,” Cene said. “Companies have been sitting on the sidelines, but as the economy starts to get better, they might be looking to pull the trigger” and start hiring.
Youngstown stands to fare far better than many of its Rust Belt counterparts, according to the Forbes list. Akron has a negative 3 percent employment outlook, which puts it at the bottom of the rankings in a three-way tie with Colorado Springs, Colo., and Columbia, S.C. Toledo also ranked among the worst cities to find a job this winter, with a negative 2 percent employment outlook.
Overall, the survey showed that employers are more optimistic about hiring in the first quarter of 2011 than they have been at any time in more than two years, with 9 percent more planning to increase their work force than expecting to reduce staff.
Baton Rouge, La., topped the list with an 18 percent net-employment outlook, followed by Seattle with 15 percent and Milwaukee with 14 percent.
From January to March, 15 percent of the companies interviewed in the Youngstown area plan to hire more employees, according to the results of the Manpower survey. Three percent expect to reduce their payrolls, and 80 percent expect to maintain their current staff levels and 2 percent are not certain of their hiring plans.
Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said that while he takes Forbes rankings with a “grain of salt,” the employment outlook indicates “that there is some bit of confidence returning.”
“Jobs are created in the private sector, and we have worked to try and create an environment that is attractive to private investment,” Williams said. “I think there is going to be continued slow growth here in the Mahoning Valley.”
But though the news from Forbes was largely positive, another national business survey put Youngstown among the worst-performing metro areas for 2010.
The Youngstown area ranked No. 92 of 102 U.S. metro areas, according to the annual MarketWatch survey, which measures the concentration of businesses with a metro area by looking at metrics such as unemployment, job growth, population growth, personal income and local gross domestic product.
The city, which finished last in the 2009 study, rose a few points as a result of a major improvement in the jobless rate — it ranked third among all cities in that category.
But Youngstown’s GDP growth was the second worst in the nation, followed only by Detroit. Youngstown also saw the second-lowest population growth, ahead of only New Orleans.