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Clark County adds jobs, defying trend in Ohio

Manufacturing work helps boost overall employment picture locally.

Clark County added jobs and improved its unemployment rate in August, bucking a statewide trend that saw a shrinking workforce and a slightly higher unemployment rate in Ohio.

Unemployment figures also dipped in Champaign County. There, however, both the number of jobs and the size of the labor force shrunk from July to August, according to figures the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services released Tuesday.

The monthly figures show Clark County added about 200 jobs and the size of its workforce remained steady at about 67,100 workers. The number of residents employed increased from 62,300 in July to 62,500 in August, and the unemployment rate dipped from 7.2 to 6.8 percent.

While comparing employment figures from month to month does not always paint an accurate picture of the job market, the figures are a good sign for Clark County, said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the ODJFS.

“That’s great news,” Johnson said “It means that more people are working in Clark County.”

Much of the job growth overall in Clark County came from manufacturing and from the service industry, a broad category that includes everything from retail and restaurants to private education and medical service jobs. Jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry dropped slightly.

Companies appear to be hiring across several sectors, but in small numbers, said Amy Donahoe, director of hiring and employer services for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. She’s seen few layoffs recently, and there appear to be more part-time positions available. She said the unemployment rate could dip further as companies prepare for the holiday shopping season.

“Companies are starting to do a little hiring, but it’s in ones and twos,” Donahoe said.

Both Clark and Champaign counties appear to be faring better than at the same time last year, Johnson said.

Clark County’s unemployment rate was a half-percentage point higher at 7.3 percent at this time last year. Champaign County’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent last year, but was 6.7 percent in the figures released Tuesday.

Champaign County’s unemployment rate fell, but so did the number of people looking for work and the number of those employed. The state’s monthly survey does not ask workers why they dropped out of the workforce, Johnson said, but some workers may be discouraged about the job market, and August is a month where summer jobs disappear and many students go back to school.

“Champaign County’s economy has improved from where it was a year ago,” Johnson said.

State and federal reports about the region’s economy have been mixed in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed while the Springfield region’s economy grew 1.9 percent from 2011 to 2012, the rate of growth had slowed from 3.9 percent the previous year. However, local economic development officials have previously said the region’s economy has improved overall in the past several years.

Both counties have also seen expansion plans from local companies as well, although they are not contributing to the most recent employment figures. In Clark County, The Horner Industrial Group reached a deal with the Clark County commissioners and the county’s Community Improvement Corp. The agreement will allow the company, which provides motor repair and machine shop services to industrial clients, to purchase slightly less than an acre of land to add jobs and expand its shop. Last week, the CIC also announced it will award a construction contract to J&J Schlaegel Inc., based in Urbana, to begin construction work on the PrimeOhio II Industrial Park.

Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the CIC, has previously said the roughly 200-acre site could eventually attract between 1,000 and 1,500 jobs to Clark County.

In Champaign County, KTH Parts Industries near St. Paris is beginning work on a $29 million expansion that could add as many as 90 full-time jobs and add more than 40,000 square feet to the facility.

Art Liming, senior vice president and plant manager at KTH, said manufacturing in general is returning in part due to labor costs and the skilled workers available.

“More and more companies are realizing you can tap into the U.S. market of cost and expertise,” Liming said.

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