By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
The Mahoning Valley’s unemployment rate dropped almost 2 percentage points in May 2014 compared with the unemployment rate from May 2013, according to data released recently by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Some economists, however, say the drop is due in large part to a decline in the size of the labor force rather than to job growth.
Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties had a combined unemployment rate of 5.9 percent in May 2014, down from 7.8 percent in May 2013. Mahoning County had a 5.8 percent unemployment rate in May, while Trumbull and Columbiana counties each had a rate of 5.9 percent. The May 2013 unemployment rate was 7.6 percent for Columbiana County, 7.8 percent for Mahoning County and 7.8 percent for Trumbull County.
“The declines in the unemployment rate that we saw in all three counties in the Valley were a lot less optimistic than they look because about half of the decline was caused by workers leaving the labor force,” said George Zeller, a Cleveland-based economic research analyst.
“That is because [workers] got laid off and went looking for a new job for a very long time, couldn’t find one and eventually gave up.”
In May 2013 the Mahoning Valley’s labor force had 262,000 workers, which dropped by 5,000 workers this year to 257,000. The Valley had a total of 242,000 employed workers last month.
According to Zeller, this trend is not unique to the Mahoning Valley, but “it happened more in the Valley than it did statewide.”
Zeller said that though the decline in the unemployment rate was a good thing, job growth needs to speed up before this can be taken as a positive indicator.
“We are getting some growth, but way too slow to make up for the number of workers dropping out,” Zeller said.