Valley jobless rate rises after RG Steel closing

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By Burton Speakman


The RG Steel closing appeared to have a sizable impact on the area’s unemployment rate with more people unemployed in the Mahoning Valley for the second-straight month.

George Zeller, a Cleveland-based economic research analyst, said the higher unemployment numbers for Trumbull and Mahoning counties were expected based on RG Steel.

The RG Steel situation is not the only aspect that is pulling down employment, he said. Local government employment also is decreasing.

The largest increase was within Trumbull County, where the unemployment rate jumped from 8.2 percent to 9.1 percent from June to July, according to Ohio Labor Market Information.

The unemployment rate in Mahoning County increased from 7.9 percent to 8.3 percent with 500 more people unemployed. Despite the increases, Mahoning and Trumbull counties’ unemployment remains significantly lower than a year ago when it was 10.1 percent in each county.

This month’s unemployment figures are a setback for the Mahoning Valley, said Tod Porter, economics professor at Youngstown State University.

“It’s unfortunate to lose a number of relatively high-paying jobs,” he said.

In addition to RG Steel, there were a number of smaller companies in Mahoning and Trumbull counties that had layoffs last month, said Benjamin Turner, Trumbull County One-Stop director.

“It seems like for each two steps forward we take, we take one step back,” he said. “Every time we see something open, something else goes down.”

There is some good news with two energy companies, Exterran and Weatherford, in the process of recruiting workers, Turner said. Each company is expected to employ more than 100 workers locally.

Columbiana County’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.3 percent with 100 more people unemployed offset by 200 more people with jobs.

Shale jobs are having a larger impact in Columbiana County compared to other parts of the Mahoning Valley, Zeller said.

Despite the negative report for July, the Mahoning Valley has experienced economic growth for the last two or three quarters, he said.

“We are in the middle of a recovery, but it’s slow,” Zeller said. “There are a lot of things going on in the economy. It’s complex.”

The unemployment rate should decrease in August due to seasonal hiring, he said.

Local unemployment numbers lag behind the state figures. Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July, unchanged from June, according to statistics from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Zeller said the statewide figures are more questionable than in most months, but those for the Mahoning Valley seem more reasonable than the state as a whole.

The numbers show the state losing thousands of workers, yet adding thousands of jobs, and that should not happen, he said. The employment and unemployment numbers come from two separate surveys, and neither does local evaluations.

“You shouldn’t take any one month’s unemployment figures with much more than a grain of salt,” Zeller said.

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