The February jobs report that was issued Friday by the U.S. Labor Department was described by Northern Trust of Chicago Chief Analyst Carl Tannenbaum, as “worrisome” and “disappointing” however, the local Ohio Means Jobs director told The Times-Gazette that her office is still seeing employers with job openings in the region.
“The jobs report did show a weak gain in employment opportunities,” Rhonda Fannin said. “But that being the case, within five miles of the Highland County zip code of 45133, the Ohio Means Jobs website shows 208 job openings.”
The labor department’s February jobs report showed a gain of only 20,000 jobs nationwide, falling well below economist’s predictions of 175,000 jobs, according to several sources.
Nationally, the unemployment rate dipped to 3.8 percent for February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the Ohio seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose slightly to 4.7 percent.
The New York Times reported February’s numbers were the smallest job nationally growth since September 2017 and could be an indicator that recent layoffs from big retailers like Gap, JC Penney, Sears, Dollar Tree/Family Dollar, and Abercrombie & Fitch may be starting to trickle down into the economy.
The New York Times also cited the construction industry, which is closely linked to weather conditions, lost 31,000 jobs last month.
“Our local job openings mirror trends of not only southwest Ohio, but also nationally,” Fannin said. “Most of our local employment opportunities are in the health care industry, followed by sales and retail, and transportation.”
Job opportunities can vary widely by region, the New York Times reported, with hard-pressed rural areas like southwest Ohio experiencing the slowest employment growth.
The Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project reported that “rural counties, the majority of which were already struggling, seem to be increasingly left behind with employment barely growing over the last five years.”
Among Ohio’s 88 counties, the Jan. 2019 unemployment rate ranged from a low of 3.2 percent in Mercer County to Monroe County topping the list at 12.1 percent.
Locally, Adams County had an unemployment rate of 10.3 percent, while neighboring Brown County was at 7.2 percent, Highland County was close behind at 7.1 percent, Clinton County had a 6.4 percent rate and Fayette County had the lowest jobless percentage in the five-county region at 5.1 percent.
For decades, Adams County has struggled with being among the top five counties with the highest unemployment rate, but Ohio Means Jobs/Adams Brown Director Debora Plymail said those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“Our unemployment rate may be high, but you have to dig into the numbers to really understand how we actually stack up against our neighbors and the entire state,” she said.
The civilian labor force estimate from the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services showed Adams County with a labor force of 11,100 people and 1,100 out of work, with a 10.3 percent unemployment rate.
By contrast, Clinton County also had 1,100 on the jobless rolls, but due to its larger labor force of 17,800 people, had an unemployment rate of slightly over four percentage points less at 6.4 percent.
Highland County had 1,200 unemployed from a total labor force of 17,100 people, which amounted to a jobless figure of 7.1 percent.
“Compare our figures with the county that has the highest unemployment rate, which is Monroe County,” Plymail said. “They have a smaller labor force of about 5,300 and almost half the number of jobless as we do at 600 workers, yet their rate is 12.1 percent, so you have to look at the numbers before passing judgement on how bad things are in a particular county.”
In spite of the low job numbers, Friday’s report offered some good news, including 3.4 percent in year-over-year wage growth, which The New York Times said was the strongest in a decade.
“As always, if you have employment needs, stop by and visit us at our Ohio Means Jobs center at 1575 N. High St. (Hillsboro) in Suite 31A,” Fannin said.
She said current job openings can be viewed online at www.omjhighlandcounty.com, and on Facebook at “Highland County Community Action Organization” and “Ohio Means Jobs Highland County.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.