U.S. job strength lags locally

Staff reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Much like real estate where the three determining factors for success are location, location and location, the job market and unemployment seem to be much the same.

Friday’s report of the March 2018 Employment Situation drew over-the-top enthusiasm from U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who claimed “the American economy remained strong in March.”

Acosta also said “for the sixth month in a row, the unemployment rate was at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.”

While comparing March to February may be like comparing apples to bananas, the hyperbole on the national level has not trickled down to the local job market.

According to figures released in late March by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Scioto County had the dubious distinction of having the 10th worst unemployment rate of Ohio’s 88 counties.

For February, the most recent month for which statistics are available, the local unemployment rate was 7.4 percent. Among all Ohio counties, the highest unemployment rate was in Monroe County in far eastern Ohio, where 10.4 percent of the population presumably is looking for work. The lowest unemployment rate among Ohio’s counties was nearly 8 percentage points lower. Mercer County in extreme western Ohio earned that distinction with an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent.

In Scioto County, the size of the local workforce was given as 29,800. The number of employed persons was 27,600; the number of unemployed persons, 2,200. The 7.4 percent unemployment figure was a decrease from the 7.9 figure reported for January. It was also more than a full percentage point better than the 8.6 figure given for February 2017. The state will release figures for March later this month.

On the national level, Acosta said “steady job growth continued, with 103,000 jobs created in March. Since President Trump’s election, the American economy has added nearly 3 million new jobs. As we have seen in recent months, manufacturing and mining and logging in particular experienced significant gains. The unemployment rate among both adult men and adult women was 3.7 percent.”

Acosta said average hourly earnings in March rose by 2.7 percent during the previous 12 months, and the three-month average increase in earnings is the highest since 2009.

“This trend is welcome news to American families,” Acosta said. “As job creators compete to hire American workers, we hope wage growth continues.”

Acosta credits President Trump’s tax reform for economic growth “as Americans see more money in their paychecks. Looking forward, Congressional action on the President’s infrastructure plan will drive continued growth.”

In Ohio, unemployment rates increased in four counties, decreased in 83 and remained the same in one county comparing February to January. The comparable unemployment rate for Ohio was 4.8 percent in February.

Despite the seemingly troublesome local numbers, Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis says the county is doing better than it has historically.

“Are we happy with where we are? No, of course not,” Davis admits. But he pointed to economic research provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The federal website tracks unemployment in the county to 1990, and shows unemployment figures peaked at 15.8 percent in January 2010. The previous high was 15.4 percent, which hit in January 1992. Five years ago, in February 2013, the local unemployment rate sat at 13.1 percent.

Davis says county commissioners are constantly striving to improve area unemployment numbers, while working with the local Ohio Means Jobs Center and the Scioto County Technical Center in Lucasville. Davis says he will not be satisfied with the situation until everyone in the county who wants a job has a job.

Davis says Portsmouth and county officials have initiated collaborative efforts to identify specific problems and resources to strengthen the local job market. An example of the improvement in communication between the city and county, Davis points to a meeting with Portsmouth Acting Mayor Kevin E. Johnson about ensuring funding for Scioto Access, the county’s public transportation system. Davis also noted how the county helped fund a municipal swimming pool in Portsmouth.

“Yes, it’s a municipal pool,” he says, but added those using the facility all are county residents. Davis further pointed to possible county involvement with plans for a dog park as well as a skate park in downtown Portsmouth.

“We are working on multiple fronts,” Davis says.

Davis also believes efforts by the county’s economic development team will translate into the betterment and economic growth of Scioto County.


Staff reports