Unemployment rates improve in Clark, Champaign counties

Unemployment rates in Clark and Champaign counties improved slightly in March as more workers waded back into the job market.

Clark County’s unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent last month, compared to 5.8 percent in February, according to information from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services released Tuesday.

The report estimated the size of the workforce, which includes those working or actively looking for work, increased by about 600 people compared to the previous month. More people looking to work is a good sign for the region, said Amy Donahoe, director of hiring and employer services for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

“There are a lot of employers who are continuing to hire, not just within Clark County but in the entire region,” she said.

That is reflected in the number of businesses looking for employees at a scheduled job fair next month, Donahoe said. The chamber and OhioMeansJobs of Clark County are hosting the hiring event from 2 to 6 p.m. May 24 at the Hollenbeck-Bayley Conference Center in downtown Springfield.

So far 37 local employers have signed up for the event and she expects to fill a total of more than 50 available spaces.

Companies taking part are offering jobs in a variety of fields, including manufacturing, health care and numerous entry-level jobs. Organizations attending the event range from Navistar to the Springfield Family YMCA, which is hiring desk staff, lifeguards and people for its day camps.

“We’ll start start doing more marketing to the public for the job fair probably in the beginning of May to make sure it’s still fresh in their minds,” Donahoe said.

An uptick in the size of the workforce is good news for both counties, said Bill LaFayette, an economist and owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm. The size of Clark County’s workforce rose about 1.8 percent compared to the same time last year, he said.

“What that suggests is that there are people coming in from the sidelines, which is something we weren’t necessarily expecting to see,” LaFayette said.

Champaign County’s unemployment rate fell from 4.8 to 4.6 percent in March, according to Tuesday’s jobs report. The size of the labor force there also grew slightly in March.

“The story has been that people are retiring in droves or they are not interested in working,” Lafayette said. “Either they are coming back in or there is a bit of an overhang of discouraged folks who are getting a bit more optimistic about their job prospects.”

Clark County saw some losses in manufacturing, but added jobs in health services, leisure and hospitality and scattered industries.

Statewide, Ohio added 18,300 jobs in March and the unemployment rate inched up to 5.1 percent. The state also saw significant gains in the size of the labor force, as about 36,000 Ohioans began either working or looking for work, according to information from the DJFS.

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