Ohio posted five-figure job gains in February, according to new data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In a much welcome departure from the sluggish growth that dogged the state in 2016, February brought an additional 15,200 jobs to Ohio.
“Last year was Ohio’s worst year for job growth since the end of the 2007 recession,” said Hannah Halbert, researcher with Policy Matters Ohio. “Today’s report is good news for the state. The real test is whether this is a blip or a real reversal of Ohio’s post-recession slog,”
Ohio made gains in goods-production and in service sector work. Construction, a sector that has not yet recovered all the jobs it had when the recession began in December 2007, gained 6,300 jobs in February, perhaps buoyed by unseasonably warm weather. Manufacturing had a small overall gain (+900). Extraction jobs in mining and logging continued to decline (-200). Service sector growth was led by leisure and hospitality work, which added 4,000 jobs last month.
“Even with the strong showing in February, Ohio’s 12-month growth rate of 0.8 percent is half that the national average of 1.6 percent,” said Halbert. “The state needs many more months like February to catch-up.”
The household survey, which generates the data for the unemployment rate, uses a completely different methodology from the employer survey that produces the data on job growth. The differences include how each defines “jobs.” Occasionally, the surveys appear to conflict, with one showing job growth and the other showing an increase in unemployment or in the unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate increased slightly to 5.1 percent in February, but the increase was driven by an uptick in the number of people actively looking for work. The labor force increased by 35,000. Most of that gain came from growth in employment (28,000), but some did not find work, with the number of people unemployed increasing by 7,000. Overall, growth in the labor force is a positive. Ohio’s labor force is still down about 235,000 since the start of the 2007 recession.
“Today’s report is strong but we’ve seen similar blips before. The state needs consistently strong growth because we have big challenges,” said Halbert. “We are among the worst states for college affordability, food insecurity, and the share of jobs paying poverty level wages.”