Champaign County added about 1,000 jobs over the last year, according to a monthly state jobs report, a sign the county’s economy might be recovering.
Clark County also added jobs in December, and state and local officials said the figures point to a growing economy in the region compared to 2012.
In Champaign County in particular, both the number of people looking for work and the number of those employed increased by 1,000 compared to December 2012, according to Civilian Labor Force Estimates from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
“In both Clark and Champaign counties, you have a growing labor force coupled with increased employment, and so you have decreasing unemployment for all the right reasons,” said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio DJFS.
In Champaign County, manufacturing in particular seems to be picking up, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for Urbana. Several companies, including KTH Parts Industries, Hughey and Phillips and Weidmann Electrical Technology have all added jobs in the past year. It’s also not clear how holiday hiring in the past couple months may have impacted the retail industry, Bailey said.
Most of the gains appear to have been in manufacturing, Bailey said. Several companies seem to be consistently hiring smaller numbers of workers.
“It’s not any one particular company,” Bailey said. “It’s all of them, it appears.”
Compared to November, the size of Champaign County’s workforce remained flat, and the county added 100 jobs. The unemployment rate fell from 6.4 percent to 5.8 percent. At the beginning of 2013, Champaign County’s unemployment rate was 8 percent.
Clark County also added about 400 jobs compared to December 2012, according to information from the Ohio DJFS. There were about 300 more people in the workforce, and the unemployment rate fell from 6.4 to 6.2 percent.
Compared to November, the size of Clark County’s workforce remained flat, and the county added about 300 jobs. The unemployment rate fell from 6.9 percent to 6.2 percent. At the beginning of 2013, Clark County’s unemployment rate was 8.3 percent.
Hiring typically starts to pick up in the first quarter of the year, said Amy Donahoe, director of hiring and employer services for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. However, the rate of hiring seems to be higher than usual for this early in the year, Donahoe said.
One factor could be that industries like auto manufacturing are improving, Donahoe said, and several Clark County companies supply parts for that industry, among others.
Rick Finkbine, executive vice president of Hughey and Phillips in Champaign County, said his company has hired about 15 or 20 more employees compared to a year ago. Sarica Manufacturing Co., a sister company, has also acquired new customers in the last year.
The company is conservative with hiring but felt optimistic enough about the future to add positions in sales and engineering, as well as some technical positions.
Overall, Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in December, down from 7.4 percent the previous month.
The state is seeing other signs of positive job growth, Johnson said.
“We know that as the economy begins to recover the labor force will start to grow,” Johnson said. “We finally started to see that in Ohio the last 12 months. Statewide, the labor force grew by 9,000 over the last 12 months.”