The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Beyond wineries and covered bridges …

A Neil Frieder column

The unemployment rate for Ashtabula County in January soared to 8 percent. A month before the county’s rate was 7.5 percent.

The state’s average for January was 6.3 percent. Ashtabula County’s next door neighbors, Lake and Geauga counties, had unemployment rates of 6.1 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, for the same time period. Ashtabula County had the highest unemployment rate of the 13 counties making up northeast Ohio.

OK, so the state has been in a recession, probably over the last couple of months. That accounts for what is going on in Ashtabula County today. Right?

Yes, but it only is making a bad situation worse. The problem is Ashtabula County has been in a depressed economic state for a number of years. Notwithstanding this current recession, good economic times have eluded much of Ashtabula County and many of its people.

That should beg the question: Why does Ashtabula County consistently have high unemployment? In January it was 68th in a state of 88 counties. For years, it has been near the bottom rung of the state for employment. Unemployment joins two other problems associated with Ashtabula County to form one of those scurrilous ménage a trois of economics: underemployed, underpaid and unemployed.

That then should beg a series of whys: For example, why does Ashtabula County have a low per capita-income average? Or, why don’t people with college degrees or higher choose Ashtabula County to call home? Or, why aren’t there more retailers other than those that cater to low-income people? Why does the crime rate seem to be higher here? Why are there a lot of foreclosed and dilapidated properties in the county? Why do Lake and Geauga counties consistently have lower unemployment rates?

It is inevitable in Ashtabula County when you begin to ask those whys that someone will ask a different series of whys: “Why don’t you point out the good things of the county, like wineries, covered bridges, Lake Erie and its people? Why are you so negative?”

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Reality Check
  • images_sizedimage_070165730 Why are we hurting so? It’s time for a reality check.: Main story, Day one

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_069193501 Beyond wineries and covered bridges … An introduction to reality check

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • What it is, how it’s calculated Determining per capita income is a complex exercise that — at best — is a mathematical expression of a moving target.

    In its simplest terms, per capita income is, according to the Ohio Department of Development, “the income of a given area divided by the resident population of that area.” Sounds simple enough, but arriving at the figure is not.

    June 25, 2008

  • images_sizedimage_069195701 Bad vibes: Lack of opportunities, progress make for sour attitudes Eavesdrop on conversations at the lunch counter, in the aisles of Wal-Mart on a Friday evening or around the sports bar on a Sunday afternoon, and you’re likely to hear some pretty disparaging remarks about the old hometown.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • Finding work after prison nearly impossible A portion of Ashtabula County’s unemployed can’t find a job because of their prior address – a prison cell.

    June 25, 2008

  • County part of Team NEO marketing efforts Ashtabula County is part of a 16-county alliance aimed at marketing the Northeast Ohio region to employers and business investors, many of have never heard of Ashtabula, let alone Mentor, Akron or Youngstown.

    June 25, 2008

  • Some people just don’t want a job Ashtabula County Commissioner Deborah Newcomb talks to a lot of employers, and they all express the same concern: finding people reliable people with basic skills is a problem.

    June 25, 2008

  • images_sizedimage_070212402 POOR BUT WORKING A winter wind blew across the parking lot of the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry next to St. Joseph’s Church in Ashtabula; the six adults lined up at the door turned their faces from the wind, toward the metaphoric concrete wall of the building.

    June 25, 2008 2 Photos

  • images_sizedimage_071213603 County's largest hospital feels the Medicaid pain Perhaps no one in Ashtabula County feels the pinch of subsidizing unemployed or underemployed individuals more than Philip E. Pawlowski.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • Crime & Drugs Inc. always hiring Some “unemployed” residents find crime to be their best source of steady income. Judge Richard Stevens of Western County Court says he noticed a 50-percent increase in the number of criminal cases handled by his court between 2005 and last year.

    June 25, 2008

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