Job drain deepens in Valley, but officials forecast growth soon


Ross Sapienza isn’t surprised that unemployment rates are rising again in the Mahoning Valley. He lives it every day.

The 35-year-old Boardman man was laid off from his drafting job at a local metal- fabrication company two years ago and hasn’t found a steady job since.

“There are some leads out there, but they are few and far between,” he said as he looked through job listings Wednesday at the Mahoning County One-Stop in Boardman.

Job-agency officials said better days are ahead for unemployed residents, but they acknowledged that times are tough right now. The local jobless rate is going up, not down.

The state said Wednesday that the unemployment rate for the Mahoning Valley jumped to 14.2 percent in January. It had been 13.4 percent in December and 13.3 percent in January 2009.

“I was shocked at the numbers,” said Bert Cene, director of the Mahoning Columbiana Training Association.

Small job losses at scattered sites are adding up, said Bill Turner, administrator of the Trumbull County One-Stop.

Recently, Denman Tire idled its manufacturing plant in Leavittsburg, and Hollywood Video announced that it was closing several area stores.

“Small places are closing down, and we’re still getting layoffs, cutbacks and closures,” Turner said.

Yet, there is hope at the job agencies.

Jim Rockwell Jr., 27, of North Jackson was at the One-Stop in Boardman to apply for a forklift operator position at Comprehensive Logistics in Austintown. The supplier for General Motors in Lordstown is adding 80 jobs as the auto plant prepares to create a third shift.

Ironically, Rockwell lost his last industrial job two years ago because of GM. He was laid off from a Boardman company that repaired forklifts for GM’s Lordstown plant. As the automaker headed toward bankruptcy, the work was cut.

He’s had two jobs since then but neither has been related to his field of diesel mechanics.

“I know there are jobs out there. I just have to find them,” he said.

Cene and Turner said jobless rates should fall later this year. Besides Comprehensive Logistics, Chester Hoist in Lisbon is looking for 90 workers.

V&M Star in Youngstown is planning to add 350 jobs at a new pipe mill, and TMK IPSCO is creating up to 120 jobs with a plant in Brookfield that will make connections for steel pipes.

“At least we have some light at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel is getting shorter,” Turner added.

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