That’s what Huron County’s director of economic development had to say about a recent report that showed all of the counties surrounding Huron County registered increases in the number of employed persons over the past year. Huron County stood out as the lone area county to have fewer people employed than a year ago.
Carol Knapp, referring to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment numbers, noted that job numbers should be looked at on a regional basis because county-level numbers don’t always tell the entire story.
She noted that many people work and live in different counties as one reason for not being surprised or alarmed by the numbers that show Huron County lagging its neighbors in the employment stats.
“I live in another county and work here, so that’s a job my home county loses,” Knapp said.
According to the BLS, rural America gained 154,000 new jobs between January of 2017 and January this year. Locally, the number of people employed in Huron County dropped by 20 during the year, going from 24,434 last January to 24,414 this year.
By comparison, Erie County gained 260 employed residents; Crawford County gained 140; Sandusky County gained 422; and Ashland County, the big winner, with 555 more residents employed.
According to Richland Source, Ashland Area Economic Development celebrated its 2017 successes at its annual meeting earlier this month.
In total, AAED executive director Kathy Goon said her office had an active role in 14 completed projects in 2017. Combined, those projects brought $311 million in capital investments to the area and created 229 jobs.
In 2017, AAED celebrated groundbreakings for Farmers Bank, Barbasol and Landoll's Mohican Castle and grand openings of Chipotle and Kay Jewelers in Ashland Commons Plaza, Hampton Inn & Suites, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center and Uniontown Brewing Company.
Perhaps even more impressive, our neighbors to the south cracked Site Selection Magazine's top 10 list of best micropolitans in 2017; with eight qualifying projects. Ashland tied with Manitowoc, Wisconsin for seventh place in the nation.
Neighboring Lorain and Richland counties also had job gains, but they are considered by the BLS to be metropolitan counties.
While 20 fewer people were employed here, during the same time period, Huron County’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 to 8.6 percent.
While an increasing number of rural jobs is certainly good news, the job growth in rural areas continues to lag far behind that of cities.
The country gained nearly 2.3 million jobs in 2017, with seven out of 10 of these new jobs created in metropolitan areas of a million or more people. Rural America had about 13 percent of the nation’s jobs in January 2017, but garnered only 6.8 percent of the jobs added during last year.
Job growth was considerably stronger in rural counties that were adjacent to metro areas. Those counties gained 121,000 jobs. Rural counties that weren’t adjacent to metro areas gained just 33,000 jobs.
The cities of a million or more had 57 percent of the jobs at the beginning of the year, but gained 69.8 percent of new openings.
The trend of jobs concentrating in large urban regions has been going on for years. It continued last year, even as unemployment rates in these regions dropped below 4.5 percent and during an administration of a president who promised that jobs would return to forgotten areas of the country.
Meanwhile, the size of the workforce in rural counties also declined slightly. (The workforce includes all those either in a job or looking for employment.) The workforce in rural America dropped by 40,000 people in the last year. That was a fraction of the 21 million people in the rural workforce at the beginning of the year, but every metro grouping gained workforce in this period.
And while local employment numbers were basically flat, Knapp said she feels good about the direction economic development is taking in the county.
“If you look at 20 fewer jobs over a year’s time span, that’s not taking into account the initiatives we have that are adding jobs now,” Knapp said, noting the major expansion underway at New Horizons and other projects.
“I think we’re doing very will with the way the economy is turning and the way businesses are starting to proceed with their growth plans,” she said. “I think we’re doing very well, especially if you look at it regionally.”
The Daily Yonder contributed to this report.