July 23, 2016

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Workers continue to leave labor force

The latest state employment report continues to give mixed signals.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped in April to 5.7 percent — the lowest level in more than six years, according to the report released Friday by the Department of Job and Family Services.

But a portion of that drop was the result of a 14,000 decline in the Ohio’s labor force — the total number of residents working or looking for jobs.

The report found the number of nonfarm jobs in the state increased to 5,297,600 in April, up 12,600 from the March total of 5,285,000, when adjusted for seasonal employment swings.

But a year-over-year comparison using unadjusted numbers shows Ohio’s rate of job creation has lagged behind the national average for 18 months in a row.

The report provided ammunition for both Republicans and Democrats in the November race for governor.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald pointed to the 14,000 drop in the labor force as evidence many people have stopped looking for work.

“Ohioans are not only having a hard time finding jobs, they are simply giving up hope of ever finding work,” FitzGerald said in a press release.

A spokeswoman for incumbent Republican Gov. John Kasich told the Associated Press that the more than 250,000 private-sector jobs created during Kasich’s administration means Ohio’s economy is moving in the right direction.

While acknowledging there is more to do, Connie Wehrkamp criticized Democrats for “trying to tear down Ohio.”

The report shows Ohio gained 2,100 jobs in manufacturing last month while losing 900 in construction.

The private service-providing sector saw an increase of 6,200 jobs in trade, transportation and utilities, 2,900 in other services, 1,100 in leisure and hospitality and 400 in information.

The report shows a loss of 2,800 educational and health services jobs, 900 professional and business services and 100 in financial activities.

Government employment gained 2,000 local jobs, 1,800 state jobs and 800 federal jobs.

The report, however, shows that Ohio’s labor force has continued to shrink since the official end of the recession in July 2009.

Using year-over-year figures not seasonally adjusted, Ohio’s civilian labor force was 5,685,000 in April, down 40,000 from the 5,725,000 reported in April 2013. Last month’s count is 232,000 less than the April record labor force of 5,917,000 workers reported in 2009.

Declines in the labor force can result in a lower unemployment rate if unemployed workers stop looking for jobs because such “discouraged workers” are no longer counted as unemployed.

Ohio’s rate of job creation has been lower than the national average for the past 1ᄑ years. During that period, the state saw an average monthly increase of 1.2 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 1.7 percent.

George Zeller, a Cleveland researcher who tracks economic data for Northeast Ohio policymakers, said the gap has widened in recent months.

“Ohio’s growth remains too slow, and the gap between the Oho job growth rate and the USA job growth rate widened once again in April,” he said.

Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.