Valley's unemployment rate increases

However, economists say more people are looking for work

By Jamison Cocklin


The Mahoning Valley’s unemployment rate ticked upward last month reaching 8.2 percent, but a growing civilian labor force helped offset a mostly negative jobs report in a sign that economists say indicates more people are looking for work here.

The jobless rate grew from 8 percent in June 2012, while the Valley’s combined civilian labor force added an additional 1,000 people to hit 266,000. The last time the region’s labor force was that large was February 2011.

The civilian labor force estimate is a measure of those who have jobs and those seeking a job.

“What that tells me is more people are looking for work than they were the previous month or the previous year,” said regional economists Jack Kleinhenz, who also serves as a professor at Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management. “It’s a sign the economy is getting better because there’s not as many discouraged workers out there.”

County unemployment rates, released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, are not seasonally adjusted. Like other states, Ohio relies on a national population survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to extrapolate both the local and statewide jobless rates. Relying on a small representative sample from Ohio, included in the bureau’s survey, creates uncertainty in the local numbers on a month-to-month basis.

Kleinhenz said if the survey was more accurate, and the numbers were seasonally adjusted, it’s possible county unemployment rates would be lower, especially if seasonal workers, who might get a job or more hours in the summer, were added.

The Valley’s unemployment data was in line with the rest of Ohio, where the jobless rate increased in every county in June. Statewide, Ohio lost 12,500 jobs last month — the second largest of any state — and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went from 7 percent in May, to 7.2 percent last month.

“Overall the figures were not good in June. Instead of speeding up our recovery we lost jobs,” said Cleveland-based economist George Zeller. “A lot of changes take place in June, though. School lets out and graduates enter the labor force — those are major seasonal factors for the month.”

Still, Zeller agreed with Kleinhenz, adding that the state’s labor force increased by 6,000 in a sign that some of the economic developments in areas such as the Mahoning Valley are drawing more job seekers.

Bill Turner, workforce administrator at the Trumbull County One-Stop, which provides free employment-related services to the unemployed and employers, said his location is busy with more job seekers attending workshops and conducting online searches.

“I think the increased job seeking activity shows that people are feeling more confident in the market,” he said. “I think the economy is seeing an upswing, things are getting better, obviously they’re not great, but you have to take it one step at a time.”

Columbiana County’s unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.2 percent last month. In Mahoning County, it went up by four-tenths of a percentage point to 8.3 percent.

Trumbull County fared better last month where the jobless rate dropped by one-tenth to 8.1 percent.

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