Columbus Dispatch: Ohio’s jobless rate falls to 4.4%, lowest since 2001


By Mark Williams

Ohio’s jobless rate dropped to an 18-year low last month even as the closing of General Motors’ plant in northeastern Ohio took a toll on the state’s manufacturing sector.

The unemployment rate dipped to 4.4% in March, the lowest since August 2001, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services figures released Friday. The rate was 4.6% in February.

The state’s unemployment rate has been below 5% since September 2017 and has hovered around 4.6% for much of the past year. Initial reports actually had shown that the rate in April 2018 was even lower, 4.3%, but that figure was later revised to 4.6%.

“It’s a pretty good report,” said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide, of the data for last month. “Obviously, the headline is the drop in the unemployment rate to the lowest level since 2001. The rest of it is a microcosm of what’s going on nationally.”

As has been the case nationally, job growth continues in the state, the unemployment rate is still dropping, and the labor force is growing, he said.

“Those are all good signs in the labor market,” Ayers said.

The U.S. unemployment rate in March was 3.8%.

Overall, the Ohio report showed that employers added 6,300 jobs last month and the number of unemployed people fell by 7,000, to 258,000.

The increase came despite a loss of 2,400 manufacturing jobs last month, tied primarily to the GM plant closing in Lordstown. The closing cost 1,600 workers at the plant their jobs, according to the state. In addition, suppliers to the plant have cut jobs, and Ayers said hiring in manufacturing has been slowing nationally.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector gave up 1,600 jobs last month, mostly due to cuts in wholesale trade.

The construction sector, which lost 3,900 jobs in February, regained 2,500 last month with the arrival of spring and the resumption of outdoor work.

The sector that covers private education and health care added 2,600 jobs last month, the most of any sector. The leisure and hospitality sector added 2,100, and the professional and business services sector added 1,200.

Several sectors and subsectors hit record high levels of employment in March: professional and business services; professional, scientific and technical services; private education and health services; health care and social assistance; leisure and hospitality; and arts, entertainment and recreation.

Ohio’s lower unemployment rate was achieved as the labor force swelled to 5.8 million people last month, the most since 2010. Often, unemployment rates rise as more people begin looking for work.

“More and more employers looking for workers,” Ayers said.

The state has added 39,800 jobs over the past year. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed people has fallen by 1,000.

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