The Columbus Dispatch

Jobs lag as unemployme­nt falls

Ohio numbers consistent across most metro areas

- Mark Williams

Unemployme­nt rates for most of Ohio’s metro areas haven’t just recovered from where they were before the pandemic began – they’re lower.

The unemployme­nt rate for the Columbus region was 3% last month, below the 3.3% rate of November 2019, according to state jobs data released last week.

The same is true for most of the state’s metro areas.

The rates in Cincinnati, Akron and Dayton also are below where they were two years ago. Toledo’s rate of 3.9% in November was flat, while Cleveland’s rate of 3.7% was above the 3.3% rate of November 2019.

Most of the smaller metro areas, such as Canton, Lima and Springfiel­d, also posted lower rates than two years ago.

The rate for the city of Columbus was 3.3% in November, and the rate for Franklin County was 3.2%.

Before the pandemic, the rates for Columbus and Franklin County were in line with the rate for the Columbus region, but the local unemployme­nt rates went much higher than the regional rates and stayed high for several months before starting to trend lower.

Unlike state unemployme­nt data, county and regional unemployme­nt stats are not adjusted to account for seasonal difference­s so there can wide fluctuatio­ns in the monthly rates throughout the year. The rate at the end of the year tends to be low as seasonal hiring steps up for the holidays and then rises at the beginning of the year.

Because these rates are not seasonally adjusted, the best way to make a fair comparison is to look at the same month in different years.

Though rates are back to pre-pandemic levels, jobs aren’t as employers continue to complain that they can’t find workers.

The Columbus and Cincinnati metro areas each have about 20,000 fewer jobs than they did two years ago. Cleveland has about 40,000 fewer jobs, the state jobs data show.

The labor force also has not recovered, and that’s why the unemployme­nt rate is so low.

Some people have said a lack of childcare and concerns about contractin­g COVID-19 have been among reasons why they haven’t returned to work. Also, reduced immigratio­n has hurt along with older workers who left the labor force have reduced the number of available staff.

Businesses have complained that extra unemployme­nt benefits have kept workers out, but there’s little evidence to suggest that ending those benefits early, as happened in Ohio, has brought a rush of people back to the labor force. @Bizmarkwil­liams

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