Staff and wire report
Ohio’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 7 percent in January, an increase partly attributed to more people looking for work as the economic recovery continues, according to numbers released Friday.
The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was up from 6.7 percent in December and 6.8 percent in November, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reported.
The rate is skewed by the fact that 11,000 more people were looking for work in January than in December, jobs agency spokesman Benjamin Johnson said. An increase in job searchers is typical during an economic recovery, he said.
“When a recession ends, we expect at some point to see the labor force start to grow again as those people regain confidence and start looking for a job again,” Johnson said. “It remains to be seen whether this is specific to January, or whether this is a trend and the labor force will grow over the coming months.”
The number of nonfarm wage and salary workers employed in the state last month actually increased by 3,800 to 5,178,800.
“A growing labor force is a positive development, even though it often increases the unemployment rate temporarily,” Johnson said.
January marked the first time Ohio’s monthly unemployment rate failed to decline or at least remain steady since July 2011, according to state data. The rate has fallen steadily since peaking at 10.6 percent during 2009 and 2010. It averaged 7.2 percent last year. The 7 percent rate in January was the highest since September.
“The economy continues to recover, but at a very slow rate,” said Cleveland-based economist George Zeller. “Government continued to slow down the Ohio recovery, with a loss of 1,800 federal government jobs.”
Zeller added, however, that local government in Ohio actually showed a gain of 1,300 jobs in January, which he noted was “a change in Ohio.”
Local unemployment numbers aren’t due out until Tuesday, but Zeller told The Vindicator last month that he wouldn’t be surprised if unemployment didn’t drop until sometime in March or beyond, as the labor force continues to gain momentum, making up for jobs that were shed after the holidays.
Bill Turner, a work force administrator at the Trumbull County One Stop, also agreed with Zeller last month when he said the economy was growing locally but not as fast as some would like. He said at the time that the One Stop remains busy with job seekers, a trend he expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Still, the Ohio unemployment rate continues to remain well below the national rate. The U.S. unemployment rate for February was 7.7 percent, down from 7.9 percent in January.
The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in January was 399,000, up from 385,000 in December, according to the jobs agency.
Goods-producing industries in the state added 3,900 jobs in January. Gains were also seen in construction, manufacturing, and mining and logging. Job losses were seen in trade, transportation, and utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality.
Government employment declined by 900.
Nationally, the Labor Department said the economy generated 236,000 net jobs in February, much more than analysts had expected.
The improvement was enough to help drive the nation’s unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent, the lowest point since October 2008.
Vindicator reporter Jamison Cocklin contributed to this story.