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Despite steady growth, 'we are not out of the woods'

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Jan 25, 2016 at 3:00 PM

The jobs report for December shows another solid gain for Ohio. The state added 15,200 jobs in December, the third consecutive month showing strong job gains, according to employer survey data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

"Three months of decent job growth is a welcome departure from the variability we've seen most of the year," said Hannah Halbert, workforce researcher with Policy Matters Ohio. "Until October, the gains and losses in 2015 left our overall growth very low, with only 10,700 jobs added between January and September."

"We are not out of the woods," said Halbert. "This late-year rally is certainly good news, but it will take many more quarters like the last one to get the state firmly back on track."

The monthly jobs data are always subject to revision and an annual process to adjust the survey based on wage records. Because the monthly numbers are preliminary, longer-term trends are more reliable indicators of growth. Even with these recent gains, Ohio still trails the nation in job growth for the year. U.S. jobs have grown by 1.9 percent over the last 12 months. Ohio has narrowed the gap, but still underperforms (1.5 percent). Since the official start of the 2007 recession, U.S. jobs have grown by 3.5 percent, while Ohio has yet to add a full percent of growth (0.6 percent).

A separate survey of households also released today by ODJFS showed a slight increase in Ohio's unemployment rate, which rose from 4.5 to 4.7 percent. The uptick was largely a result of an increase in the number of unemployed. At the same time, the total number of people either working or looking for work grew. Since the official start of the 2007 recession, Ohio's labor force has declined by 247,000, a loss of more than 4 percent. The nation's unemployment rate remains at 5 percent, but more people are working or looking for work. The U.S civilian labor force has grown by more than 2.5 percent since the official start of the recession.

The two surveys released today appear to be at odds, with the employer survey showing job growth and the household survey showing increasing unemployment. The surveys use different methodologies and sample sizes; occasionally the reported data are inconsistent. This underscores the importance of longer-term trends.

"Overall, Ohio is still struggling from a slow and shallow recovery," Halbert said.

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