September 20, 2014

Medina
Mostly sunny
75°F

County unemployment at 8 percent

MEDINA — The county’s unemployment rate was one of the lowest in the state for August at 8 percent, but officials say lower rates statewide do not mean the economy is improving.

The county rate was 8.5 percent in July and 9.3 percent in June, according to figures released Tuesday from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Only three counties have lower rates than Medina — Holmes at 7.3 percent, Delaware at 7.2 percent and Geauga, 7 percent. The state’s unemployment rate for August was 10.8 percent, a decline from 11.2 percent in July.

A state report says unemployment rates are declining throughout the state only because more people have exhausted their unemployment benefits and are no longer counted in the statistics.

“A decrease in Ohio’s labor force was a primary factor in (the) drop of the August unemployment rate,” ODJFS Director Douglas Lumpkin said in a statement. “The unemployment rate declined as the number of service-providing and goods-producing jobs decreased and fewer Ohioans were actively seeking work.”

Medina County Workforce Development Director Bill Hanigan said unemployment statistics for smaller counties such as Medina can sometimes be skewed due to the relatively small statistical samples compared with other counties.

“I would love to take credit for the lower unemployment rate,” he said, but the number of people coming to Medina Works for training and job placement assistance remains consistent.

Those who file for unemployment benefits usually can receive them for 26 weeks, but this could increase if Congress approves a bill to extend benefits for 13 weeks in 27 states including Ohio.

One problem Hanigan has seen is employers are demanding new hires have more education and certifications, which makes it harder for someone to get a position. And although the agency has received federal stimulus money to fund training programs, the money disappears quickly.

“A lot of employers are demanding more from applicants because they can,” he said.

While Medina Works can provide some training, many of the high-demand jobs, such as nurses, require several years of college.

Another sign people still need help is the number of phone calls to information line 211 for things like rent and utility assistance, said Julie King, executive director of United Way of Medina County.

In July, there were 2,297 calls to the line, a 70 percent increase from the 1,354 calls in the same month a year ago. The most common reasons for calling were utility bill and rent assistance, and locating food pantries.

“These are all emergency things people need,” she said.

Contact Allison Wood at (330) 721-4050 or allisonwood@ohio.net.