Unemployment was down in most major cities and counties in the Miami Valley last month, continuing a steady decline in unemployment in the local area since the beginning of the year.
Unemployment declined for the fifth consecutive month in Dayton and Montgomery County in May, and both rates were down from a year ago, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported Tuesday.
The May rate for Dayton was 8.9 percent, down from 9.2 percent in April and 10.7 percent a year ago.
In Montgomery County, the rate fell from 8.0 percent to 7.6 percent during the same period, and the May rate was down from 9.3 percent a year ago.
Still, economists warn that a declining unemployment rate does not necessarily mean the economic recovery is gaining strength.
“This area has lost a lot of relatively high-paying manufacturing jobs, so even if we are seeing the unemployment rate come down, I’m concerned about how much those jobs are paying people,” said Rudy Fichtenbaum, a Wright State University economics professor. “That has some implications for how strong the recovery is going to be because if income is down it’s going to slow the growth of consumer spending,” he said.
“Which is one of the big drivers of job growth.”
Statewide, job growth has been robust. The Buckeye State added 19,600 jobs in May and the state’s unemployment rate edged down to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent in April, the jobs department reported last week.
The trend was even better across the Miami Valley, which includes Butler, Champaign, Clarke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren Counties.
The average unemployment rate for the area was 6.8 percent in May. Montgomery County had the highest rate, and Warren County had the lowest at 5.8 percent, down from 6.2 percent in April.
“Each month people are finding a little bit more in terms of job opportunities,” said Stefanie Nemitz, branch manager for the Dayton office of staffing firm Robert Half International. “As the economy continues to experience incremental improvements, companies will be looking to hire more workers.”
The big cities in the area also saw their jobless rates decline precipitously last month.
Springfield, which had an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent at the beginning of the year, saw the rate fall to 7.4 percent last month from 7.6 percent in April. Trotwood has seen double digit unemployment fall from nearly 11 percent at the beginning of the year to 9.5 percent last month, a smidgen below its 9.6 rate in April.
Meanwhile, Beavercreek’s jobless rate has dropped from 6.7 percent at the beginning of the year to 5.8 percent in May, down from 6 percent in April. And Kettering has seen its jobless rate decline from 8.2 percent to 6.6 percent over the past five months.
On a county-by-county basis, unemployment fell in 84 of the 88 counties, ranging from a low of 4.2 percent in Mercer County to a high of 12.6 percent in Pike County, according to the state jobs department.
In addition to Mercer, seven counties had unemployment rates at or below 5.5 percent in May, including Holmes, 4.7; Delaware, 4.9; Union, 5.2; Putnam, 5.4; and Auglaize and Geauga, 5.5 percent.
The counties with the highest rates, other than Pike, were: 11.7; Scioto, 10.5; Morgan, 10.4; and Jefferson, 10.1.
Unemployment rates for cities and counties are not seasonally adjusted, or adjusted for seasonal variations in hiring tied to weather, shopping patterns and other trends.
The unadjusted unemployment rate for Ohio is 6.9 percent, and the national rate is 7.9 percent.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2437 or rtucker@DaytonDailyNews.com.