The U.S. Labor Department on Friday released its official jobs figures for December and Rhonda Fannin, director of workforce solutions for Ohio Means Jobs Highland County, told The Times-Gazette the numbers bode well for both Highland County and the nation.
“The good news for workers is that there are employment opportunities available,” she said. “Locally, within five miles of the Highland County zip code of 45133, the Ohio Means Jobs website shows 160 openings, and within a 20-mile radius of our zip code, there are 955 employment opportunities.”
The government reported that the U.S. economy added 312,000 jobs in December, exceeding the estimates by most economists that the figure would top out at 180,000.
December’s numbers were the biggest gains since nearly a year ago, when 324,000 jobs were added in February, the report said.
Fannin said the openings that she sees locally mirror national trends in that of the most of the job opportunities are in health care, sales and retail, and transportation.
“Ohio’s unemployment rate continues to be about 5 percent more than the national average, and Highland County’s unemployment rate continues to be near the 5 percent mark,” she said. “Adjacent counties to the north like Clinton is at 4.8 percent and Fayette County is at 3.6 percent, and they tend to fare much better than those to the south of us such as Adams and Brown counties.”
The latest unemployment figures put Adams County at 6.5 percent and Brown at 4.8 percent.
The unemployment rate rose by only two-tenths of a percent to 3.9 percent, and the government reported that the average hourly wage rose by 3.2 percent from a year earlier.
Government figures also speak to a small rate of wage growth, with employees receiving raises, but not enough to keep up with the cost of living.
“Speaking from a rural perspective where meeting self-sufficiency standards are a constant struggle for many of our residents, we find that many job seekers need local employment due to challenges of transportation and child care,” Fannin said.
According to the online employment market site ZipRecruiter, the overall picture of the economy is one of strong job growth on Main Street, but continued uncertainty on Wall Street.
It also reports that the slight rise in the unemployment rate is due to more people being drawn into the job market, perhaps by the lure of higher wages and a better job.
The unemployment rate is the lowest since 1969 and job openings today are at record highs, ZipRecruiter said. A growing number workers are quitting before finding another job, which could be seen as a sign of confidence in the hiring outlook, but to Fannin that is still risky behavior.
“We recommend that someone has a job secured before leaving their current employment,” she cautioned. “There are too many unknowns when it comes to life and if you have a family to support and bills to pay, then the safe route to take would be to continue with your current job while keeping your options open.”
The only takeaway from the report, ZipRecruiter said, was the number of people who are underemployed, with the number of people working part-time but who would rather be working full-time higher today than it was a decade ago.
Fannin said that for employment opportunities, updating resumes, and to prepare for an employment transition, Ohio Means Jobs Highland County offers many career and workplace ready workshops, free to the public.
Its monthly calendar can be viewed online at omjhighlandcounty.com/news/workshop-calendar.
Current job openings are posted online at ohiomeansjobs.com and omjhighlandcounty.com/category/jobs/.
Fannin said her office is also on Facebook at Highland County Community Action Organization Inc. and Ohio Means Jobs Highland County.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.