Jobless rate jumps back up in Valley



By Kristen Russo


Unemployment in the Mahoning Valley is the highest its been in almost a year.

In January, the combined unemployment rate for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties was 11.6 percent, up from 10.5 percent in December.

The number of unemployed Valley workers hasn’t been this high since April 2010, according to numbers released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

That month, the Valley had 32,400 jobless workers, or an 11.9 percent unemployment rate.

In January, the Valley had 31,000 unemployed workers compared with 28,400 in December 2010.

Compared with January 2010, the number of unemployed workers living in the Valley has decreased by about 2 percent, down from 13.8 percent. The Valley had 37,400 jobless workers that month.

In Youngstown, unemployment was 12.5 percent in January, compared with 11.2 percent in December.

Compared to a year ago, unemployment in Youngstown decreased by almost 2 percent.

In January 2010, the city had 4,100 unemployed workers, or a 14.4 percent unemployment rate. In January 2011, Youngstown had 3,500 jobless workers.

Bert Cene, executive director of the Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association, said the organization has not seen any significant layoffs in the area to account for the unemployment increase between December and January.

The Mahoning and Columbiana Training Association operates the One Stop in both counties. One Stops are government organizations that help connect workers and employers.

Because county unemployment numbers are not seasonally adjusted, Cene said they could have been affected by seasonal retail jobs ending and companies adjusting their inventories at the beginning of the year.

“Obviously, the numbers are much better than at this time last year,” Cene said. “We still feel the economy is showing signs of recovery, and there are still a lot of good things on the horizon. ... We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said.

Cene cited the expansions of V&M Star and the Marcellus Shale Coalition as developments that could lead to more local jobs.

Warren also experienced an unemployment increase between December and January and a decrease over the past year.

The city’s unemployment rate was 11.2 percent in January, up from 10.8 percent in December. Compared with last year, Warren’s unemployment rate experienced a drop of about 2 percent, down from 13.4 percent.

Warren had 2,300 unemployed workers in January.

For the state, January unemployment decreased to 9.4 percent, down from 9.5 percent in December and 10.6 percent a year ago.

Ohio had 551,000 unemployed workers in January, compared with 560,000 in December.

In the meantime, the high unemployment rates have led to an increase in demand at local food banks.

Mike Iberis, executive director of the Second Harvest Foodbank of the Mahoning Valley, said the organization has given 4 percent more food in the first two months of 2011 compared with the first two months of 2010.

The food bank serves Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

“We have a lot of chronically unemployed people, and some of them aren’t being counted because their benefits have run out, but they are still coming to the food bank,” Iberis said.

Iberis said the numbers have been steady for the past six months with about 12,000 people visiting the food bank every week.

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