Ohio Jobless Rate Up in December

Columbus Dispatch - January 24, 2004
   

Boost blamed on rise in holiday job-seekers
by Mark Niquette

The economy might be improving, but employment in Ohio
and the region continues to lag.

The Ohio jobless rate increased to 6 percent in December from
5.7 percent in November. The unemployment rate also
increased in all central Ohio counties except Franklin,
according to state data released yesterday.

Economists blamed the increase on more people seeking work
during the holidays for fewer jobs, continuing the trend of a
“jobless recovery” that has businesses still cautious about
hiring.

“At some point, the job market should break and improve in
terms of higher employment,” said Keith Ewald, chief of the
Ohio Bureau of Labor Market Information. “The question is
when, and unfortunately, no one has that answer.”

Ewald said one positive sign is that the manufacturing sector,
which has been hammered by job losses during the past year,
essentially held steady in December. Jobs in the leisure and
hospitality industries declined statewide. The number of
unemployed workers in Ohio in December was 351,000, up
from 344,000 in November and an increase of 28,000 since
December 2002.

It is the third year in a row of job losses in Ohio. Had the state
generated enough jobs since the end of the recession to keep up
with the growth in the working-age population, there would be 
202,100 more jobs today, according to the nonprofit group 
Policy Matters Ohio.

In central Ohio, employment declined during December, but
the total number of unemployed also fell slightly. Ewald said
that s likely because fewer people were counted in the labor
force because of the seasonal nature of their work.

For example, construction employment declined during
December in the metro area, but many of those workers
probably weren t looking for other work during the month and
wouldn t be counted as unemployed, Ewald said.

“I m not too terribly upset by what I m seeing here,” said Bill
LaFayette, vice president of economic analysis for the Greater
Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

Still, some unemployed workers such as David Markley of
Reynoldsburg say they re not seeing much improvement in the
job market.

Markley, 56, who worked as a software developer at Lucent
Technologies for 32 years before losing his job 2½ years ago,
said the market for computer-related jobs is especially tough
with more U.S. jobs being sent overseas.

He also thinks the overall job situation is worse than it appears
because many people have been out of work for so long they no
longer show up in the unemployment statistics.

“We ve kind of fallen off the radar,” he said.

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