“These increases in the workforce are very small, almost insignificant,” said Bill LaFayette, owner of Regionomics, a Columbus-based economics and workforce consulting firm.
Unemployment rates have been trending down in recent months while job growth had almost stagnated.
“Up until this month, employment has been stable, so this is a spike,” LaFayette said.
Ohio employers added 9,200 jobs to non-farm payrolls last month as the unemployment rate dipped to 5.1 percent from 5.2 percent in April — the first decline in unemployment in the state in nine months, the state jobs department reported.
Ohio’s job gains accounted for nearly a quarter (24 percent) of the 38,000 net jobs added to the U.S. economy last month, although the national jobs report was one of the weakest monthly reports in years, missing analysts’ expectations by more than 150,000 and falling markedly below the average of 200,000 jobs created per month over the past couple of years.
Still, job growth was mostly responsible for the drop in unemployment in Ohio, unlike the national rate, which fell to 4.7 percent in May from 4.9 percent in April mainly because millions of people dropped out of the workforce.
Last month, the national labor force participation rate — or the share of the labor force working or actively seeking work — fell to a 38-year-low of 62.6 percent as more people retired or just quit looking for work because they couldn’t find jobs, the U.S. Department of Labor reported earlier this month.
By comparison, the state’s labor force participation rate edged up in May to 63.6 percent from 63.5 percent in April as about 9,000 Ohioans rejoined the workforce, making Ohio a national leader, according to Joe Nichols of the Columbus-based think-tank, The Buckeye Institute, which analyzes Ohio’s unemployment rate to identify policy solutions for increasing job opportunities.
“Ohioans want to work, as evidenced by the continued increase in the state’s labor force participation, which is outpacing the national average,” Nichols said. “The fact unemployment finally dropped after nine months of stagnation means workers are starting to find jobs.”
Staff writer Rich Gillette contributed to this report.