Clark County labor force stabler than rest of Ohio

Clark County’s economy is fairly stable compared to the rest of Ohio, according to a local expert, despite a jobs report released Tuesday that showed Clark County shed 600 jobs last month.

The county’s unemployment rate ticked up for the second month in a row. However, state reports show that 500 more people are working in Clark County than at the same time last year.

The unemployment rate was 7.2 percent last summer, but was listed at 5.8 percent in July of this year.

Monthly data for counties isn’t seasonally adjusted, so economists often say the year-to-year comparison is a better indicator of the local economy than month-to-month figures.

The state unemployment rate also rose from 5.5 percent in June to 5.7 percent in July. Ohio’s employment rate a year ago was 7.5 percent, however.

Ohio’s declining unemployment rate in recent years can mostly be attributed to residents dropping out of the labor force, including due to retirements or because they quit looking for work, said Richard Stock, director of the University of Dayton Business Research Group.

The long-term trend for Clark County’s workforce has been relatively stable compared to the rest of the state, he said.

The number of unemployed residents in Clark County has actually declined over the past decade, Stock said. About 4,900 residents were unemployed in July 2004. That figure peaked in July 2009 at 7,900 unemployed residents. The most recent figures show about 4,000 people as unemployed.

The civilian labor force figure includes only those Ohioans working or looking for work. Residents who retire or quit looking for work entirely aren’t included. State figures show the size of Ohio’s workforce has steadily declined, shrinking to slightly more than 5.7 million in the most recent report. That is the lowest level since 1997, according to information from the state.

“I don’t think Clark County looks like the rest of the state,” Stock said. “It has had relative stability in its civilian labor force. You just don’t see that same degree of people having left the civilian labor force that you do for Ohio as a whole.”

Some Clark County residents have had success finding work in recent months.

Cole Van Schoyck is starting a new job as a truck driver with U.S. Xpress this week after spending more than two decades working as a physical therapist. He had been unemployed for a few months and attended a job fair earlier this year in Clark County.

It was challenging finding work in a similar field, Van Schoyck said, so he attended a five-week course at Clark State Community College to acquire his Commercial Driver’s License. He applied to between six and eight jobs, he said, and received three offers.

“I’ve always enjoyed driving so I thought I’d give it a shot,” Van Schoyck said.

The state labor force estimates in Champaign County shows the area shed about 100 jobs between June and July, and the unemployment rate ticked up from 4.9 to 5.5 percent.

However, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of the job market in Champaign County from the monthly report due to the its smaller sample size, Stock said.

The state report shows employment in Champaign County remained flat at 19,000 workers in both July 2013 and this year. The unemployment rate in Champaign County was listed as 6.9 percent in July last year, but was 5.5 percent last month.

Clark County employers reported cutting jobs in industries like manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and educational and health services. The region added jobs in sectors such as construction. Some of the losses were also offset by “gains in scattered industries,” the report showed.

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