Economic figures in the Mahoning Valley continue to have mixed results with fewer people working, but the unemployment rate still dropping.
In September, there were 243,600 people employed in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, an increase of 1,000 jobs compared with September 2011, but the total was down by 1,400 from August, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Conversely, the unemployment rate is 7.4 percent, down from 7.7 percent in August and 8.9 percent in September 2011.
One of the troubling aspects of the report was the job loss, said Tod Porter, professor of economics at Youngstown State University.
“The unemployment rate being down appears to be solely because of people leaving the work force,” he said. “There are perfectly good reasons why people leave the work force,” such as those who go back to school and others who retire.
People also leave the work force after they become discouraged and stop looking for jobs. There is not enough demographic data to determine why the Valley’s work force is shrinking, Porter added.
Amy Hanauer, director of Policy Matters Ohio, a progressive nonprofit policy research organization, said that because the decrease occurred in the last year, it is likely due to discouraged workers.
“A drop in unemployment is typically a good thing,” she said, adding, however, it’s not a good sign when it’s being caused by people leaving the work force.
The public-sector jobs that have been lost due to state and federal budget cuts have resulted in slowing the economic recovery, Hanauer said.
Two of the three local counties had fewer jobs in September than August. Mahoning County had the lowest unemployment rate locally at 6.9 percent in September, but lost a total of 800 jobs. Trumbull County had the highest unemployment rate at 7.9 percent and lost 700 jobs.
Columbiana County, however, gained jobs with an increase of 100 in September. Columbiana County has gained jobs every month this year. The unemployment rate for the county was 7.3 percent, down from 7.6 percent in August. All 1,000 new jobs in the Valley have been gained in Columbiana County.
“Without job growth in Columbiana County, the Mahoning Valley would be right where it was last year,” Porter said.
The Valley has added about 4,000 jobs since September 2009, but in the last year or so, job growth has been pretty flat, he added.
The most-recent economic figures released for the area show the Youngstown-Warren area increased in jobs for the week ending Oct. 18, said George Zeller, a Cleveland-based economist. The figure is based on a reduced number of unemployment claims for the week.