LIMA — The unemployment rate continues to be a slight drag on a local economy that is showing growth in other areas, such as retail, home sales and auto sales, third quarter economic indicators show.
In home sales, for example, 1,129 homes have sold through September this year, compared with 952 sold in the same time period in 2012. The total value of those homes is $111 million, compared with 2012’s $88.6 million.
“We’ve now seen 26, 27 months of continual growth,” said Joe Guagenti, a real estate agent with Azzarello’s Realty and president of the West Central Ohio Association of Realtors. “Prices are about back to where they used to be. Houses are selling faster than they were. All kinds of positive things are happening in the market.”
One of the biggest changes Guagenti is seeing in the market is the reduction in the number of foreclosed homes.
“For a while, we had a lot of sales, but they were foreclosures, which meant they were not fair market value sales,” Guagenti said. “We’ve seen an increase in fair market value sales, and that’s a big indicator things are going in the right direction.”
The labor market has been stagnant year over year. The unemployment rate through September of this year is 7 percent, exactly the same as it was for the same period in 2012. Seven percent also matches the national unemployment rate.
The size of the workforce has also changed very little. A year ago, about 92,222 people were in the workforce in the region that includes Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties. This year, the number dropped slightly, to 91,645. The number of people working also dropped slightly, from 85,633 in 2012 to 85,212 this year. The number of unemployed also dropped, from 6,500 to 6,422.
Unemployment data for the third quarter was delayed by the federal government’s shutdown earlier this year.
Pockets of the region are seeing lower unemployment rates. In Auglaize County, the year to date unemployment rate this year of 5.5 percent is lower than 2012’s 5.8.
The county has been under 6 percent for more than a year, Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Executive Director Greg Myers said, and Crown is searching aggressively for workers.
“On Interstate 75 there is a billboard from Crown saying they are hiring. When your county’s largest employer has a giant billboard on an interstate highway looking for people, I’d say things are humming,” Myers said. “Our biggest challenge is helping companies find skilled employees they need to replace those who are retiring and those who are responding to new production.”
Another company, General Aluminum, is investing $30 million and will hire 85 new workers for the manufacture of aluminum castings for the auto industry.
“Nearly every company in Auglaize County is looking for workers with specific skill sets,” Myers said. “Maintenance technicians, welders, CNC operators, people who run the machinery that make the parts.”
While Myers’ main job is assisting industry, he commended efforts to nearly fill Wapakoneta’s downtown storefronts.
“Retail and a strong downtown play an important role in industrial development, for quality of a community,” Myers said. “When investors come, they want to see investing happening in a prosperous community where the quality of life is good.”
In other indicators:
•Sales tax revenue is on the rise, increasing quarter over quarter in Allen, Auglaize and Putnam counties, and also when measured year to date for all three counties.
•In auto sales, thousands more vehicles have been sold this year so far than at this point in 2012. Through September of 2012, 9,680 new cars and 20,771 used cars had been sold. This year, 10,250 new cars and 23,291 cars have sold.