Ohio leads the nation in job losses in March even though unemployment rate fell
Cleveland Plain Dealer - April 20, 2012
Ohio led the nation in job losses in March, even as the state’s unemployment rate inched downward.
Fewer jobs, but more people working? Blame the contradiction on how data used in calculating the jobless rate are collected.
George Zeller, an economic research analyst in Cleveland, cited “technical inconsistencies” that caused the apparently conflicting numbers. Either way, the figures cement a disturbing trend, he said. Ohio –like much of the nation — is experiencing a slow recovery.
“At the current rate, it will take Ohio more than 12 years just to recover the jobs that were lost in the 2007 recession,” he said.
Zeller said Ohio’s post-recovery labor market began growing in the second quarter of 2011, but the growth has been slow. “Even more troubling, March is now the 10th consecutive month when Ohio’s year-over-year job growth has been below the USA national average,” Zeller wrote in an email.
The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that Ohio lead the nation in job losses in March. Ohio’s nonfarm wage and salary employment fell by 9,500, to about 5.14 million, the largest monthly drop in the nation. New Jersey was second with a 8,600 loss, and Wisconsin was third with 4,500.
The number of employed workers in Ohio increased by 15,000 in March, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported Friday. The number of unemployed people fell about 5,000 to 438,000 — with the unemployment dropping 0.1 of a percentage point, to 7.5 percent.
The 9,500 figure is based on the Current Employment Statistics survey of Ohio businesses. The unemployment rate is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, a national survey of 60,000 households.
The Census questionnaire is not done for individual states. This can sometimes cause problems, especially when there are small changes in a state’s jobless rate.
“The national survey can sometimes not reflect what the actual rate is in an individual state,” Zeller said.
Benjamin Johnson, the ODJFS spokesman, agreed, but he said the contradiction was not significant.
“In March, the surveys moved in opposite directions,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Keep in mind that in both surveys, we are talking about very small changes. The unemployment rate dropped by one tenth of a percent, and total non-agricultural employment decreased by fewer than 10,000 out of more than 5.1 million Ohio jobs.”
Even if a monthly contradiction is less than significant, Zeller said, the gap can be considerable when the months are totaled.
Once a year, the Labor Department publishes revisions to the monthly estimates. In recent years, some have been glaring. For the fourth quarter of 2009, the number of jobs in Ohio was overestimated by 83,300, Zeller said. For the second quarter of 2010, the over-count was 20,900 jobs.
Hannah Halbert, policy liaison with Policy Matters Ohio, agreed with Zeller that future revisions probably will reflect an even slower recovery. Even without the revisions, the current figures are distressing, she said.
“While the March data presents mixed messages, it seems clear that even with the recent gains, Ohio is a long way from recovery,” she said in a news release.
Halbert said that since the national recession ended in June 2009, Ohio has seen modest labor market growth of 1.7 percent, or 86,200 jobs. Since March 2011 — when the state’s unemployment rate was 8.8 percent — the number of jobs has grown by 1.2 percent.
The latest jobless figures still offer glimmers of promise.
“It is important to note that unemployment did not decline because unemployed Ohioans quit looking for work,” Johnson wrote. “That has been a factor in the past, but in March, the total civilian labor force increased in Ohio. That means there were more Ohioans working or looking for work.”
Joel Elvery, a Cleveland State University professor specializing in labor economics, sees other reasons for optimism.
“The good news is that manufacturing, which is still a major driver of our economy, added 4,600 jobs,” he said.
Added Veronica Kalich, a Baldwin-Wallace economics professor: “This is good news if this represents higher paying jobs.”