While Tara Campbell said there’s no evidence the opiate epidemic has directly affected unemployment numbers in Highland County, the workforce services director of Highland County Community Action said many of the county’s largest employers – mostly manufacturers – have noticed more people failing drug screens and higher turnover rates due to drug abuse in recent years.
Campbell said Ohio Means Jobs, a division of HCCA that offers employment services for locals seeking jobs, hosts quarterly employment roundtables with the largest employers in the county at its offices on U.S. 62 north of Hillsboro, and several have spoken of drug abuse affecting employment.
“If people can’t pass the drug screen, they’re not going to get hired,” she said. “Pretty much every employer now requires a drug screen.”
According to Campbell, if someone seeking employment through OMJ says they have a problem with drug abuse, they are sent to Family Recovery Services or Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center for a treatment assessment.
Campbell said OMJ has met with some success in getting people into treatment programs so they can get employed.
“We can’t place anybody who has a drug addiction,” she said, “but we’ve been pretty successful at getting them into treatment.”
Campbell told The Times-Gazette that the most consistently available positions in the area are manufacturing jobs, and many of OMJ’s clientele come in looking for them.
“Labor and production is the most common,” she said. “That’s usually the folks who are working on the line, making a product or inspecting the product… Manufacturers have the most open positions.”
Campbell said the average wage for entry-level labor and production jobs is $10 per hour.
“There are employers who pay higher and some who pay lower,” she added.
While national unemployment rates have been trending downward in the past year from 5 percent last April to 4.4 percent in the same month this year, statewide unemployment numbers have lingered at around 5 percent in the same time period, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
In Highland County, the unemployment rate as of March of this year was 6 percent, according to ODJFS.
“The foothills of Appalachia usually have higher unemployment rates,” Campbell said. “As you go even further south of Highland County, they usually carry quite a bit higher unemployment rates, and with most of our seasonal employment being farming and construction, it can get as high as seven percent… You can definitely see as the months go by the highs and lows in the different seasons.”
Campbell said Highland County’s Ohio Means Jobs center has a self-service room with computers for people to do job searches, create resumes and complete career assessments on their own.
In addition, the center hosts several workshops throughout the week with a certified workforce development professional on hand to teach interview and employment skills, resume writing and work ethic.
The Ohio Means Jobs center is located at 1575 N. High St. in Hillsboro.
It can be reached by calling 937-393-1933 or by visiting omjhighlandcounty.com.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.