Medina County’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the state.
But a closer look at the statistics show part of the reason appears to be a dramatic increase in the number of discouraged workers, who are not counted as unemployed.
The county’s jobless rate in November was 5.6 percent — tied for 11th lowest among the state’s 88 counties, according to statistics released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Last month’s rate was slightly better than the 5.7 percent posted in November 2011. But that comparison is misleading because of the way the rate is calculated.
The monthly Current Population Survey, which provides the national unemployment rate, doesn’t estimate the number of unemployed people directly. Instead, the survey asks who has jobs and subtracts that number from the labor force, which is the total number of people working or looking for work.
But if the number of workers who have given up looking for work goes up, the number of unemployed goes down, and so does the jobless rate.
That appears to be what happened in Medina County, which saw its labor force drop to 94,200 last month, down from 96,900 a year ago in November.
The 2,700 workers who disappeared from the labor force over the 12 months was more than enough to offset a 2,500 drop in the number of employed workers in the county, resulting in a decline both in the estimate of unemployed and the jobless rate.
If those 2,700 workers had been counted as unemployed, Medina County’s jobless rate would have been more than 8 percent.
The large increase in Medina County’s discouraged workers — those who have given up looking for jobs — goes counter to a statewide trend: Ohio’s labor force shrunk by only a fraction of 1 percent since November 2011, compared with Medina’s 3 percent drop.
The Medina numbers surprised state officials.
“Of the counties I have looked this morning (Friday), Medina is the first one where the unemployment rate was not significantly lower than in 2011,” said Benjamin Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corporation, speculated that some of the increase in discouraged workers could be people leaving the labor force because their unemployment insurance has run out.
“We are coming up to the end of the 99 weeks of unemployment for many,” she said. “It’s very possible some of them have chosen not to re-enter the labor force.”
Dentler said she remained optimistic.
“In taking with manufacturers throughout Medina County, a number of them are going into hiring mode,” she said. “I’m hoping that as word gets out about that, some of these workers might be encouraged to rejoin the labor force.”
Contact reporter David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.