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State jobless rate holds at 5.5 percent

Ohio’s unemployment rate held steady last month at 5.5 percent, unchanged from May, as the state gained 12,700 non-farm jobs, according to figures released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

The monthly job gain was the second-biggest this year, and Ohio’s jobless rate is the lowest since April 2007 — eight months before the Great Recession began.

Unemployment in Ohio, which is down from 7.4 percent a year ago, is also lower than the U.S. unemployment rate, which fell to 6.1 percent last month.

Still, the steady decline in the state unemployment has been tied mainly to a sharp drop in labor force participation, or the number of Ohioans working or actively seeking jobs.

People are only counted as unemployed if they are jobless and looking for work, which means the unemployment rate can fall even if job growth remains stagnant.

The civilian labor force fell by 5,000 in June and has contracted by more than 214,000 since the economic recovery began five years ago, according to Hannah Halbert, a workforce researcher with Policy Matters Ohio.

“Ohio has made some gains since the end of the recession, but we continue to lag behind the nation, and too many Ohioans aren’t finding jobs,” Halbert said.

While job growth in Ohio continues to gain momentum, it trails the national rate.

In May, the overall economy finally recovered more than 9 million jobs lost in the recession. By contrast, Ohio still needs 112,800 jobs to complete its jobs recovery, according to Halbert’s calculations.

“While the gain announced today is one of the largest of the year, it serves to highlight how painfully slow our growth has become and how far we have to go to recovery,” she said. “This boost improves the picture slightly, but we still have a six-figure job deficit.”

June’s job gains were broad-based, though lower-wage sectors continued to account for the bulk of hiring.

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