Ohio unemployment shrinks along with workforce

Ohio’s unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent last month, down from 5 percent in June, as employers statewide added 11,400 jobs over the month, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported Friday.

Ohio’s unemployment rate is now lower than the national rate for the first time since January when both the U.S. and Ohio rates were 4.9 percent — the same as the national rate for July.

The number of unemployed Ohio workers fell by 13,000 to 278,000, down from 291,000 in June, according to the jobs report. Still, the number of Ohio workers unemployed last month is higher than it was a year ago when there were 267,000 jobless workers state and the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.

In addition, another 24,000 workers dropped out of the labor force last month, which was largely responsible for the lower unemployment rate and caused the biggest drop in labor force participation since 1990, according to Joe Nichols, a policy analyst with The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a conservative think-tank in Columbus.

Nichols said the July jobs report indicates small businesses and other private-sector employers did not have the ability to absorb all the people seeking jobs.

“Ohioans clearly wanted to work, but the state’s employers did not have the money and resources to hire them,” Nichols said, noting that for the second month in a row government hiring was responsible for a large share of job gains in Ohio.

Government hiring rose last month by 4,700, mostly at the local level, where the number of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public jobs grew by 3,100.

The biggest job gains were in the health care and social assistance sector, which added 6,400 jobs. But losses in goods production, including construction, which shed 3,600, jobs, pared total job gains in the private sector.

“It’s discouraging that state government was the leading job creator in June, and now local government is a top job creator in July,” Nichols said. “Government doesn’t move our state forward; small businesses, entrepreneurs, and workers do.”

Nationwide, unemployment rates were significantly higher in seven states last month, lower in three states — including Ohio — and stable in 40 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BlS). July employment rose in 15 states, decreased in Kansas, and was essentially unchanged in 34 states and the District of Columbia, according to BLS figures.

For the year-to-date, Ohio’s economy has added 78,800 jobs, and the state’s 12-month employment growth rate, 1.5 percent, is moving closer to the national average, 1.5 percent.

“While today’s numbers show some welcome job gains, what is missing from Ohio’s recovery is consistently solid job growth,” said Hannah Halbert, a labor market researcher with the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio.

Halbert noted that since the start of the recession, the nation has added jobs at an annual rate of 4.4 percent, while Ohio has average only 1.6 percent annual job growth.

“Our overall progress has been very slow,” Halbert said.

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