The unemployment rates in Clark and Champaign counties went down in August following increases in last few months, however the local labor force remained stagnant.
The unemployment rate in Clark County in August was 4.3 percent, down from the 4.9 percent reported the previous month. Champaign County also saw a decrease in unemployment between July and August, with that rate dropping from 4.3 to 3.7 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
However, Clark County saw a slowdown in the growth of its labor force and the number of people listed as employed in August.
The local labor force has seen steady growth over the past few months and has been larger than what is usually projected for Clark County during spring and summer, according to Bill LaFayette, an economist and owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm.
Though unemployment tends to go up during the summer months, more people were either employed or looking for work this year compared to the summer of last year, LaFayette added.
However, the labor force in Clark County did not grow between July and August. Instead it stayed the same and though state data showed an increase in the number of people employed in Clark County, it was 150 people shy of the 550 person bump usually projected for August, said LaFayette.
Clark County’s labor force at the end of that month was 64,200 people and the number of people employed either full-time or part-time was 61,400, according to data collected by the Ohio DJFS. Those numbers showed an increase of 400 people employed in the county compared to the previous month. But, LaFayette said that number usually increases by 550 people in August.
County unemployment numbers released by the state do not take into account seasonal patterns that affect labor and unemployment trends. Those factors can include seasonal employment, major holidays and school schedules.
LaFayette said by adding those factors into the equation, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for last month would be 4.5 percent. That is an increase compared to the 4.3 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reported in July.
“In this case the unemployment rate increased for the wrong reasons,” he added, pointing to a slowdown in growth in the county’s labor force.
Nationally, he said, there has been a slowdown in the overall growth of gross domestic product in the United States. He said that can lead to a slow down in hiring, though the two are not always related.
LaFayette said another reason for a slowdown in hiring can be due to workforce availability.
Amy Donahoe, Director of Workforce Development with the Chamber of Greater Springfield, said local companies are taking a more aggressive approach to attract potential applicants.
She said some employers are having trouble filling job openings, due to a shortage of skilled labor and qualified candidates as the county has seen low unemployment rates over the past year.
That has lead to some employers raising their starting wages or tweaking benefit packages. But, for some it also means looking at potential candidates that may have been overlooked in the past, including those who have developmental disabilities or those who are incarcerated locally or elsewhere and will be released back to Clark County.
“Employers want someone they can mold to do the job the way they want it done. A population, such as young individuals entering the workforce or someone recently released from jail or prison, may have more of a hunger to satisfy that employer,” Donahoe said.
There has also been a shift in past years to provide more opportunities for those with disabilities in the workforce, Donahoe said. She said that includes some companies working more closely with the board of Developmental Disabilities of Clark County. Several programs have also been created in order to better provide job skills and training to those the board serves.
Overall employment numbers in Clark County have been strong this year. LaFayette said both the labor force and the number of people listed as employed in August was up compared to the same period last year.
In Champaign County the labor force stayed the same at 20,100 between July and August. However, the number of people reported as employed in August increased by 100 compared to the previous month, which saw 19,200 people listed as having some sort of employment.
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