November 26, 2014

Medina
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County labor force declining due to ‘discouraged workers’

Nick Glunt and David Knox

The good news is Medina County saw its best unemployment rate last month since 2009.

The bad news is the county’s labor force continues to shrink.

According to data released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Medina County’s seasonally unadjusted jobless rate was 6.2 percent in March — down from 7.2 percent in February and slightly less than the 6.4 percent reported in March 2012.

The same survey, however, shows the labor force — defined as all those with jobs or looking for work — declined to 93,400 last month. That total was 800 less than reported in February and 1,400 fewer than in March 2012.

It was the second straight year-over-year decline and the county’s smallest labor force reported in March since 2005.

Year-to-year comparisons are considered more accurate because month-to-month employment numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

George Zeller, a Cleveland researcher who tracks employment and other economic data for Northeast Ohio policymakers, said the drop in the number of people in the labor force is a statewide and national trend.

“This same phenomenon happened elsewhere in Ohio and also elsewhere in the USA,” he said. “Large numbers of workers dropped out of the labor force.”

Zeller said the reason for the decline is an increase in “discouraged workers,” who have stopped looking for work and, therefore, no longer counted in the labor force.

“Because we lost so many jobs as a result of the recession, it took many laid-off workers a very long time before they could find a new job,” he said. “Many never found a job at all, and just quit looking for work.”

Zeller said the growing number of discouraged workers means the unemployment rate is a very misleading gauge of the health of the job market.

“The figures show that more Medina County workers dropped out of the labor force and still don’t have a job since 2010 than actually found a job,” he said. “Thus, we still have thousands of jobless workers who live in Medina County who are still suffering from the lingering aftereffects of the Great Recession, and who have grim prospects of finding a new job at a time when the Ohio job growth rate is only 0.11 percent per year.”

Zeller said the situation is even grimmer for the state, which has lost 459,300 jobs since 2000.

“Half of those lost jobs were just since 2007,” he said. “At the current rate of growth, it will take more than 20 years to recover the jobs that we lost just during the past six years.”

Zeller said the latest data confirms that Medina County and the rest of Ohio are recovering from the recession, but the problem is “the current rate of recovery is stunningly slow.”

“We absolutely must speed up the current rate of job growth in Ohio,” he said. “But, it was slower in March 2013 than it has been in any month since January 2011.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Contact managing editor David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.