Ohio added 24,000 jobs in 2013

The unemployment rate in Ohio has remained stuck in neutral over the past two years despite a slight uptick in labor force participation and the addition of 24,000 jobs, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ohio’s average annual unemployment rate remained unchanged from 2012 to 2013 at 7.4 percent — the same as the national rate — while the state’s labor force grew by 25,000 workers.

That reversed a long-term decline in the number of Ohioans who had a job or were actively seeking work, but growth in the labor force barely kept pace with growth in Ohio’s working-age population, which climbed by 31,000.

As a result, the percentage of Ohio’s civilian non-institutionalized population that is employed — or the employment-population ratio — also remained unchanged at about 59 percent from 2012 to 2013, the report showed.

“Here we are, however many years post-recession, and we’ve had no statistically significant change from last year or the year before,” said Hannah Halbert, a statehouse liaison for the Cleveland-based think-tank, Policy Matters Ohio. “The monthly (jobs) data seems like it has been on a seesaw from big months up to big months down, but ultimately we ended in stalemate. We’re just stuck.”

Nationally, annual average unemployment rates declined in 43 states and the District of Columbia, rose in two states, and were unchanged in five states, the BLS reported, while employment-population ratios decreased in 28 states, increased in 17 states and the District of Columbia, and were unchanged in five.

The U.S. jobless rate edged down by 0.7 percentage points from the prior year to 7.4 percent last year, and national employment-population ratio was unchanged at 58.6 percent.

Halbert said the annual averages underscore why it’s important not to read too much into the monthly data, which show a sharp decline nationally in the unemployment rate from the end of last year to the beginning of this year.

The national monthly unemployment rate plunged from 7.9 percent in December 2012 to 6.7 percent in December 2013 and 6.6 percent in January, according to BLS.

At the same time, Ohio’s monthly unemployment rate fell from 7.3 percent in December 2012 to 7.1 percent in December last year — the last month for which figures are available.

Jim Brock, a Miami University economics professor, said he expects to see a better indication of where employment is heading on a state and national level when the BLS releases its annual revision of national estimates of employment, hours, and earnings in a process known as benchmarking.

The benchmark report is expected to be released next week, but Brock doesn’t expect it to reveal any dramatic changes.

“We’re coming out of the most severe recession since the great depression,” Brock said. “This wasn’t a minor setback. It was so widespread and so damaging that the recovery is going to take time. There’s no question we’re recovering, it’s just very slow.”

Job growth remained sluggish in January, based on figures released Friday by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

The state jobs department said more than 159,700 job openings in Ohio were posted online from Dec. 14, 2013 through Jan. 13. But that was a decline of 12,952 job listings form the previous monthly reporting period, and 5,196 job listings from a year ago, based on data from The Conference Board.

Unusually cold weather across the United States may have contributed to the decline in hiring and job listings, experts say.