The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 30, 2013

Ashtabula County unemployment falls, outlook optimistic

Star Beacon

— The unemployment rate in Ashtabula County dropped significantly in February, but remained higher than those of surrounding counties and the state.

The county’s rate, which was not adjusted for seasonal variations, was 10 percent in February. January’s rate was 11.4 percent.

Ohio’s February rate was 7.6 percent when not adjusted, and 7 percent when seasonally adjusted.

The reason for the lower rate is straightforward: there were 4,700 residents reported as unemployed in February compared to 5,300 the prior month.

Further, compared to January, 700 more county residents were working in a full or part-time job, which resulted in a slight growth in the size of the labor force, 46,700, in February, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Brian Anderson, executive director of Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, feels that the January rate “may not have been a great representation of reality” in the local job market. He feels that the February rate more accurately reflects what has been going on and points to a general optimism about the local economy among CEOs who do business here.

“The feedback we have seen is that many companies are seeing better than expected first-quarter numbers,” Anderson said. “There was some softening of national and global market conditions at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter of 2012 after a great start to the year,” Anderson said in an e-mail. “It looks like most companies are looking at more positive projections for 2013, and the first quarter numbers seem to have confirmed that.”

The December 2012 unemployment rate for Ashtabula County was 9 percent. Anderson said the jump to 11.4 percent in January, and then a drop to 10 percent in February, is an atypical scenario, “especially without any major events of scale that could trigger such up and down jumps in the numbers.”

He anticipates a continued decline in the rate during 2013.

“Overall, the start of 2013 was better than many local companies projected, and we expect to see drops in unemployment and increases in the total number of people working as many companies typically ramp up production and hiring in February, March and into April,” he said.

Mercer County in western Ohio had the lowest unemployment rate, 4.8 percent, in February. The highest was in Pike County, in southern Ohio, where 13.7 percent of the workforce was idle.

Ashtabula County’s 10 percent rate was the highest in northeast Ohio. Neighboring Lake County was at 7.4 percent and Trumbull County at 8.5 percent.