Construction workers pour cement for new sidewalks on South Limestone Street in Springfield. Construction was a bright spot in Ohio’s latest job report. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

Unemployment rates dip in Clark, Champaign counties

Unemployment rates dipped in Clark and Champaign Counties in March, although local officials said hiring and employment figures remain relatively stable compared to last year.

Ohio’s unemployment rate, which is adjusted for seasonal factors, remained unchanged from last month at 5.1 percent, according to information from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Clark County’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in March, down from 5.6 percent in February, according to information from the Ohio DJFS. Clark County’s unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in March last year.

Locally, many employers are reviewing their wages and benefits to retain current employees, said Amy Donahoe, director of hiring and employer services for the Chamber of Greater Springfield. The Chamber is also working with OhioMeansJobs of Clark County to host a job fair on Tuesday, May 23 in downtown Springfield.

“We haven’t seen a lot of change,” Donahoe said of the pace of hiring. “We have people changing jobs because the job market is good for them. They have the ability to look for something with higher pay, better benefits or more flexibility.”

That means employers are increasingly competing for the same workers, she said. Five regional counties, including Clark and Champaign, are undergoing a wage and benefit study to provide businesses with a picture of whether they are offering competitive pay and benefits to their employees.

“That’s what’s hard for employers is finding out what it is that motivates people to want to work for them,” Donahoe said. “Some people aren’t motivated by money. They’re motivated by time off or culture. It just depends on the person and that makes it hard for employers right now.”

In Champaign County, the unemployment rate fell from 4.6 percent in February to 4 percent in March. That figure was 4.5 percent at the same time last year.

Ohio’s unemployment rate, which is adjusted for seasonal factors, was 5.1 percent in March this year, unchanged from the previous month. The state’s unemployment rate was 5 percent in March last year.

Construction was a bright spot in Ohio in the latest report, although it’s unclear whether the growth was due to a particularly mild winter earlier this year, said Hannah Halbert, a workforce researcher at left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio. If so, that could mean that industry simply peaked earlier in the season than usual.

The state added about 1,000 jobs in construction in March, and saw smaller growth in industries like manufacturing.

“Construction has been the driver in February and in March,” Halbert said. “That’s great because they’re typically higher-paying jobs. But I’m concerned that a lot of that growth is related to really good weather in February and not actual jobs.”

The state also lost 2,000 retail jobs in March, which could reflect a national trend in which the U.S. shed approximately 30,000 retail jobs in March according to information from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Ohio bounced back and forth throughout much of last year between adding jobs and lower-than-expected growth, Halbert said. The first quarter of this year is an indication the state is still in that pattern, she said.

“We appear to be back on this job growth roller coaster,” Halbert said. “That positive report from February we saw was great but it was really undercut by losses that we saw in March. We need really consistent growth. We also need a real improvement in wages.”

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