Ohio job growth worst last year since 2009

Ohio bucked the national trend, recording a net loss of 2,100 jobs in January while U.S. employment grew by 227,000 — besting analysts’ expectations for U.S. job growth in the first month of President Donald Trump’s administration, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Friday.

The state unemployment rate for January remained unchanged from the previous month at 5 percent, while the U.S. rate edged up to 4.8 percent from 4.7 percent in December, according to figures from the labor department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The national jobless rate increased mainly because more than a half million sidelined workers (584,000) were lured back into the workforce, according to the jobs report. Workers re-entering the workforce or joining for the first time are counted as unemployed until they find a job, which can push up the jobless rate.

RELATED: Ohio unemployment shrinks along with workforce

The prospect of better job opportunities bolstered by President Trump’s pro-business, pro-growth policy goals was undoubtedly a factor convincing hundreds of thousands of discouraged workers to resume their job searches, according to at least one expert.

“There’s some confidence about the Trump administration and the promise of him walking back a lot of regulation, and I think people are optimistic they’ve be able to find jobs,” said Orphe Divounguy, an economist at The Buckeye Institute, a right-leaning think-tank in Columbus.

Such optimism helped drive the national labor force participation rate, or the share of the labor force working or actively seeking work, up 0.2 percentage points to 62.9 percent, according to BLS figures. And the number of Ohioans working or looking for work increased in January by 17,000, according to figures released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

RELATED: U.S. unemployment rate edges closer to Ohio's

But despite the spike in labor force participation, the so-called economic “Trump Train” has yet to pick up steam in Ohio, according to Divounguy, who noted that Ohio gained less than half as many jobs in the year ended in January (31,100) than it did in the previous 12 months, (80,800).

“If you look at the employment trend, Ohio is actually below that trend,” Divounguy said. “That tells me the Ohio economy is cooling down, and not heating up.”

In fact, 2016 was the worst year for job growth in Ohio since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, according to an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal-leaning think-tank in Columbus.

With an annual job growth rate of 0.9 percent last year, Ohio added jobs at about half the state’s post-recession peaked of 1.8 percent in 2014, according to Policy Matters, which noted the national rate last year was 1.6 percent.

RELATED: Ohio unemployment shrinks along with workforce

“Today’s report confirms that 2016 was a weak year for Ohio jobs,” said Hannah Halbert, a workforce researcher at Policy Matters. “We continue to under-perform the national average, and we are slowing down.”

The biggest job losses in Ohio in January were in the education and health care sectors, which shed 10,800 jobs, according to the state jobs report. The losses offset gains in construction (+7,800), manufacturing (+1,900), and mining and logging (+200).

Nationally, January job gains were led by the retail, construction and financial activities sectors. Retail trade employment increased by 46,000; employment in construction was up by 36,000; and financial activities added 32,000 jobs in January.

Despite the job gains, however, wages remained stagnant with average hourly earnings up just 3 cents and 2.5 percent on an annualized basis, according to BLS.

About the Author