By Karl Henkel
In 1991, Bill Clinton announced his candidacy for president, Major League baseball banned Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame and Comedy Central made its television debut.
Something else happened closer to home that October.
The combined unemployment rate of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties was at 6.3 percent, slightly lower than the Ohio rate of 6.4 percent.
But for the next 20 years, the state’s monthly unemployment figures always bested the Mahoning Valley.
That is, until this past November.
In what could be described as an early Christmas gift, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reported Tuesday that the area’s unemployment rate in November nose-dived 2.1 percent compared with the same month last year.
The unemployment rate is now 8.4 percent, the lowest it has been since November 2008.
The Valley’s unemployment rate is now lower than the state rate, which in November was 8.5 percent. The last time the tri-county area posted a lower unemployment rate than the rest of the state was October 1991.
Ohio’s figure is seasonally adjusted; adjustments aren’t made to local figures.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re consistent with the U.S. average; that’s amazing,” said Eric Planey, vice president of international business attraction for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. “We’re in a situation now where we have nice, continued slow growth.”
Planey said he attributes a lot of the economic success to the larger projects, including new hiring at V&M Star in Youngstown and seven months of three-shift action at General Motors Co. Lordstown.
But he also believes some of the smaller businesses are helping to chip away at the area’s jobless rate.
“If you really look around, that’s one of the backbones of our economy, the small and medium businesses,” said Ben Turner, administrator for Trumbull County One-Stop.
State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, said the lower unemployment figure is good news, but remained cautious because the Valley’s civilian labor force declined by 4,000 during the past year.
The civilian labor force, is defined as people 16 and older who are working or looking for work, excluding military, students, volunteer workers and those in institutions, retired or unable to work. It does not count those who have given up looking for work.
“Some people are living with parents, living with family members,” Hagan told The Vindicator Tuesday. “I don’t want to be a naysayer, but if we’ve get more people working, that’s a good thing.”
There were 244,200 working residents in November, up from 242,500 during the same month last year. The number of unemployed dropped from 28,400 to 22,400, a 21 percent drop.
County-by-county, Columbiana’s unemployment rate dropped from 11.2 percent to 8.9 percent after losing 1,000 members of the civilian labor force and gaining 300 jobs; Mahoning’s rate softened from 10.1 to 8.3 after losing 1,400 labor force members and gaining 700 jobs; Trumbull’s rate went from 10.6 to 8.2 after losing 2,100 labor force members and gaining 600 jobs.