By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal business writer
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 percent last month, the lowest rate in nearly six years, but the state lost 4,600 jobs, figures released Friday show.
George Zeller, a Cleveland researcher who analyzes economic data for Northeast Ohio policymakers, noted that February marked the 16th consecutive month that Ohio’s rate of job growth was below the national average.
Zeller noted that a large percentage of the 4,600 jobs that were lost in February were in the government sector. Government employment was down 4,000 in February, according to the data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
“This is what’s slowing down the growth — the government cuts at all three levels, federal, state and local,” Zeller said.
How can the unemployment — or jobless — rate drop if the number of jobs doesn’t increase?
Zeller said in an interview the jobs number presents a far more accurate and detailed picture of the state’s economy than the unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate is based on a nationwide survey, in which federal government workers ask people if they are searching for a job.
Meanwhile, Zeller noted, the state jobs data comes from a “more reliable” survey of 20,000 Ohio employers.
The February job loss comes on the heels of a U.S. Department of Labor report released earlier this week showing that Ohio had the second-biggest job gains of any state for January, adding 16,700 positions.
Zeller said the Labor Department revised the January number downward by 1,200 jobs.
“The new data (released Friday) are fresh evidence that Ohio’s rate of job growth unfortunately continues to be sub-par,” Zeller said in a note to clients.
The February seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down from 6.9 percent in January and 7.1 percent in December. The February figure is the lowest since June 2008, when the rate began trending upward as the Great Recession took hold.
Ohio’s February unemployment rate was below the national rate, which was 6.7 percent.
The national rate was up from 6.6 percent in January but well below the 7.7 percent national rate in February 2013.
The number of workers counted as unemployed in Ohio in February was 377,000, down 18,000 from 395,000 in January. The number of unemployed has decreased by 44,000 in the past 12 months.
Ohio’s nonfarm employment decreased by 4,600, from a revised 5,284,600 in January to 5,280,000 in February, according to the survey of employers. This survey is conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor and the state.
The goods-producing sector, at 871,200 jobs statewide in February, lost a total of 4,700 jobs in the month. Job losses in construction (-8,100 jobs) and mining and logging (-300) were partially offset by gains in manufacturing (+3,700 jobs) last month.
The service-providing sector, at 3,655,500 jobs in February, gained 4,100 jobs. Areas that had increases were: educational and health services; trade, transportation and utilities; and professional and business services. Gains in these areas exceeded job losses in financial activities and leisure and hospitality.
Meanwhile, the government sector, with 753,300 jobs statewide, lost 4,000 jobs. A total of 3,400 of those were in local government. The number of federal government jobs declined by 600. State government employment was unchanged from January.
In the past 12 months, nonfarm employment has increased by 50,000 jobs in the past 12 months. Goods-producing industries gained 15,300 jobs. Manufacturing added 12,800 jobs, and construction added 1,400 in that period.
The January state employment report says 23 states reported more hiring for that month, while 27 said the number of jobs fell. Among those adding jobs, Ohio ranked behind only Texas, which added 33,900 positions.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.