“The primary driver for the unemployment rate coming down is that fewer people were in the labor force,” said Bill LaFayette, an economist and owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm.
The number of residents in those counties listed as having some sort of employment or actively looking for work, also known as the labor force, decreased in July when compared to the previous month.
That number went from 64,900 to 63,000 in Clark County and from 19,900 to 19,600 in Champaign County.
In terms of employment, that number was listed as 57,800 in Clark County during July when compared to the 58,200 reported in June. In Champaign County that number went up slightly between those two months from 18,100 to 18,200, according to data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
However, the number of Clark County residents listed as employed went up by 400 when compared to historic trends and what is usually seen in July, according to LaFayette.
He said that using the same formula, the overall labor force for that county was down by 1,200 more than what is normally expected between June and July.
One factor behind a dip in the labor force could be that residents are still uneasy in participating in the labor market amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
LaFayette noted that a factor behind a jump in employment could be both the direct and indirect impacts of the state deciding to reopen portions of its economy starting in May.
The coronavirus pandemic and statewide preventative measures have caused an immediate economic impact. A statewide order in March called for the closing of businesses that were deemed nonessential. Those that were allowed to remain open had to make adjustments or temporarily suspend their operations.
As a result, the unemployment rates in both Clark and Champaign counties dramatically increased between March and April. With those rates gradually decreasing in the months after.
However, even as the government stay-at-home order regarding the pandemic has eased, this remains a historically bad labor market. The number of unemployed has increased by 262,000 people statewide in the last year.
Last July did not have the added restrictions caused by a global pandemic and the unemployment rate for the state was a bit over 4% compared to 8.9% this year. Clark and Champaign counties saw unemployment rates of 5% and 4.2% last July.
“Things are going to come back to normal gradually. It is not going to be the quick v-shape recovery that some people were thinking would happen at the beginning of all this,” LaFayette said.
He said that people entering the labor force could increase local unemployment rates in the incoming months.
Data recently released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that Clark County lost 5,900 jobs in April and has since added back less than 41% of those jobs.
LaFayette said that the pandemic has hit the leisure and hospitality sector the hardest, which fell by 50%, statewide and nationally, between March and April. Though it has picked up slowly since, that industry is still dealing with the economic impact of the pandemic.
That sector includes arts, entertainment as well as restaurants and lodging.
Some restaurants in the area had to temporarily close during the statewide stay-at-home order while all had to switch to providing carryout and curbside services. A lot of them were not used to primarily relying on those services.
Those establishments have since been allowed to start offering in-person dining again with several added restrictions.