May 24, 2016

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More may be giving up job search

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent last month — down from 6.5 in February and the lowest seen in nearly six years.

The state’s jobless rate in March also was lower than the U.S. rate of 6.7 percent in both February and March, according to the latest employment report, released Friday.But a closer look at the statistics shows much of the decline may be the result of Ohioans giving up looking for work rather than finding jobs.

The report found the number of Ohioans without jobs dropped by 24,000 in March, when adjusted for seasonal employment swings.

But the same survey found only 12,000 more employed workers. The other half of the decline in the number of unemployed is the result of the labor force shrinking by 11,000.

Declines in the labor force — the total number of Ohioans with jobs or looking for work — can result in a lower unemployment rate if unemployed workers stop looking for jobs. Such “discouraged workers” are no longer counted as unemployed.

The Associated Press reported that Job and Family Services spokesman Ben Johnson said there’s no way to know right now whether the decrease in the labor force is indicative of a larger issue or whether it’s a one-month anomaly.

The report, however, shows that Ohio’s labor force has been steadily shrinking since the official end of the recession in July 2009. Using year-over-year figures not seasonally adjusted, the state’s labor force of 5,687,000 in March was 18,000 less than the 5,705,000 reported in March 2013.

Last month’s state labor force total also was 215,000 less than the March record of 5,902,000 workers reported in 2007, before the financial crisis and Great Recession.

In contrast, the total U.S. labor force has grown by more than 3.3 million workers over the same seven years.

Ohio has been creating jobs, but at a slower rate than the national average for the 1ᄑ years, according to Current Employment Survey statistics.

Friday’s report found Ohio’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm wage and salary employment increased by only 600 in March to 5,282,900.

A 4,600 gain in the number of construction jobs largely was offset by losses in manufacturing (3,500 jobs).

Job gains also were seen in leisure and hospitality (4,800), professional and business services (3,200), and educational and health services (2,400).

Losses occurred in trade, transportation and utilities (4,900), other services (1,600), financial activities (900) and information (200).

Among public-sector workers, local and federal employment was down 3,500 and 100 jobs respectively, while state government added 400 jobs.

Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or