While the U.S. economy continued to move forward with last Friday’s announcement of 157,000 new jobs being created, unemployment numbers in Highland and surrounding counties continued to lag behind the national average.
According to the U.S. Jobs Report, the national unemployment rate dropped slightly to 3.9 percent. Highland and Clinton counties were at 6.3 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, while Brown County was a bit lower at 5.8 percent and Adams County topped out at 7.5 percent.
This time around, though, Highland County’s southern neighbor didn’t lead the jobless numbers.
Monroe County on the West Virginia border had the highest unemployment figure in the state with 7.9 percent, while across the state on the Ohio/Indiana line, Mercer County was well below the national average, coming in at 3.3 percent.
Economists had hoped for a job creation figure closer to the 200,000 mark on Friday. Still, the nation’s unemployment rate dropped slightly from 4 percent last month and the job participation rate remained unchanged at 62.9 percent.
While Highland County Ohio Means Jobs Director Rhonda Fannin could not be reached for comment, Debora Plymail, director of Ohio Means Jobs for Adams and Brown County, said the latest figures bode well for the region.
“We’re seeing many more local job openings come through our office and they include health care, small manufacturing and, of course, retail,” Plymail said.
Plymail said that more local employers are partnering with her office when it comes to filling open positions, adding “not many of the jobs are real high paying, but they are jobs nonetheless.”
The Adams and Brown Ohio Means Jobs office is hosting a job fair Wednesday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Red Barn Pavilion, adjacent to the Convention Center complex. It’s located at 2220 Russellville Rd., just across SR 32, outside of Winchester.
“We’ve got 26 businesses that will be there for the event,” Plymail said, “so make sure your resume is up to date, dress for success, and show up with a positive attitude.”
She said one complaint among employers is the apparent lack of basic skills for job seekers.
“Three that come to mind right off hand,” Plymail said, “are many of the soft skills employers are looking for … like being able to take directions, working as a team and the big one, showing up for work on time.”
One other problem that employers are finding is a sign of the times — finding employees who can pass the pre-employment drug test. Some companies are easing up on rigid skills requirements and waiving the necessity of a high school diploma if the applicant will pursue completion of a GED, Plymail said.
Other employers have even begun to give job seekers with “minor” jail time on their record a second chance, according to newsmax.com. But the Wall Street Journal said it was universal among employers that if the applicant can’t pass the pre-employment drug test, they won’t get hired.
Tim Colliver can be reached at 937-402-2571.