Ohio jobless rate drops to 7.6%: State attributes month’s decrease to creation of 28,000 posts

The Toledo Blade - March 24, 2012

By Tyrel Linkhorn

The number of unemployed Ohio workers fell again in February, pulling the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent in January.

Data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services show 443,000 Ohioans were unemployed in February, compared with 447,000 in January. Although the drop wasn’t huge in percentage terms, state officials say employers added a large number of jobs — more than 28,000 — in February.

“There’s a lot of detail within the methodology that makes that possible,” said Ben Johnson, a Job and Family Services spokesman. “The important thing to know is that the economy is getting better and it’s happening slowly. We expect it will continue to improve, but we expect it will be a slow recovery.”

Ohio’s unemployment rate remains better than the U.S. rate for February, which stood at 8.3 percent. Ohio’s unemployment rate in February, 2011, was 8.9 percent. All figures are seasonally adjusted.

The state announced earlier this week that the falling unemployment — Ohio’s jobless rate has dropped in five consecutive months — has triggered a reduction in the number of weeks residents can collect unemployment compensation.

Effective the week ending April 7, Ohioans will be able to claim a maximum of 73 weeks of unemployment benefits. Previously, the maximum was 99 weeks.

“This is happening because Congress designed the program so the maximum amount of benefit was available in the states with the highest unemployment, and Ohio is no longer among those states. That’s a good thing. It’s driven by improvement in Ohio’s economy,” Mr. Johnson said. “Unfortunately it means for some Ohioans their benefits will be exhausted sooner than expected.”

Benefits for those who are in the final 20 weeks of the federal emergency unemployment benefit will end immediately.

The state says there are just under 1,000 such recipients in metro Toledo. Across all of Ohio, there are about 18,600.

Those in what the state calls “tier four” benefits, which last from week 73 to week 79, will receive benefits through the 79th week. Mr. Johnson did not have available the number of people receiving those benefits in Ohio.

Eight other states are losing the final 20 weeks of extended benefits, and two others are losing the “tier four” benefits.

Mr. Johnson said Ohio employers have added 53,000 jobs through the first two months of the year.

Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal think tank, praised the jobs report, noting that the reason for the rate falling in January and February was job growth more than people leaving the labor force.

However, they noted that Ohio still is nearly 273,000 jobs behind what it was before the recession.

“In the mid-90s, adding 100,000 jobs annually became commonplace,” Hannah Halbert, policy liaison with Policy Matters Ohio, said in a statement.

“This month’s jobs report is good news, but we still need more, sustained job growth to speed Ohio’s recovery.”

Ohio jobless rate drops to 7.6%: State attributes month’s decrease to creation of 28,000 posts

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