Ohio jobless rate falls as workforce shrinks

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Courtesy of the Associated Press

The jobless rate in Ohio dropped to its lowest level since April 2007, according to figures released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

But the rate was down in April, at least in part, because 14,000 Ohioans dropped out of the labor force, the report showed. Over the past 12 months, Ohio’s labor force has shrunk by more than 200,000.

Labor force contraction helped push the May unemployment rate down to 5.5 percent from 5.7 percent in April and more than 7.4 percent in the same month a year ago, the jobs department reported. At the same time, the state’s economy gained 2,900 jobs.

But the improvement in the unemployment rate had little to do with increased employment, said Hannah Halbert, workforce researcher with Policy Matters Ohio.

“We are nearly five years into recovery, and we continue to under-perform the nation in job growth,” Halbert said, noting that the number of nonfarm jobs in Ohio has increased by 0.9 percent over the past year, under-performing national job growth of 1.7 percent.

The U.S. now has more jobs than it did at its peak before the 2008 recession, based on preliminary figures for May from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, Ohio still needs to recover 140,000 jobs to return to its pre-recession employment peak.

“Ohio’s economy has improved since the end of the recession, but too many unemployed Ohioans aren’t finding jobs,” Halbert said, noting that May marked the 18th straight month that Ohio’s job growth rate trailed the national average.

Still, not every Ohioan who is not in the labor force is looking for work, explained James Brock, an economics professor at Miami University. And as long as employment keeps growing as a fraction of the total number of people seeking jobs, the labor market will continue to gain momentum.

“I think the (jobs) outlook is reasonably good and getting better,” Brock said. “There is no question that so-called discouraged workers have been part of what we’ve seen in recent years in terms of labor force participation.

“But the other part of this that I think is important and will become increasingly so is the aging of the American population,” he added. “You have more and more people who are older and retired, and that means the labor force is getting smaller. But it’s not because they’re giving up or are hopeless.”

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©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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