EAST LIBERTY — Some 7,200 people here in Logan County were out of work in April, a number that was bumped up considerably by Honda’s manufacturing and transmission plants being temporarily shut down. Honda’s closures prompted nearby automotive suppliers that make up the bulk of Logan County’s manufacturing sector to close their doors for weeks.
Unemployment quickly soared to 30.1%, the highest jobless rate in Ohio amid the state’s stay-at-home order. The county’s jobless rate was just 4.2% in February.
“It’s a strange time,” said Ben Vollrath, president of the Logan County Chamber of Commerce. “You have a very high unemployment number, which is true, but people know it’s a short-term thing, especially as Honda gradually ramps production back up.”
Fourteen of the county’s 30 largest employers are directly tied to the automotive industry, which saw soft consumer demand for new vehicles in April.
Honda, which has manufactured more than 20 million automobiles in Ohio since the company opened its first plant in Marysville 40 years ago, resumed production in the U.S. earlier this month.
Vollrath is optimistic the automotive industry will rebound this summer, bringing Logan County’s jobless rate back down to something closer to normal.
Still, John Navin, an economics professor and dean of the James F. Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern University, said it will take some time for employers to get back to where they were before the stay-at-home orders took effect in March.
And Navin doesn’t expect unemployment to return to the record lows witnessed prior to the coronavirus pandemic, even though jobless rates will start falling in May and June as manufacturers resume production, stores and restaurants reopen and hospitals begin offering elective surgeries again.
“You’re still going to have a number of local businesses that won’t reopen,” he said.
Ohio lost 828,000 private sector jobs between April 2019 and April 2020, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services data. Those losses include 101,000 jobs and 682,000 jobs in the hospitality and service industries.
There were 957,400 Ohioans out of work in April, bringing the state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate to 16.8%.
Just over 10,000 of those jobless Ohioans were in Allen County; 7,500 were in Hancock County; 5,500 were in Shelby County; 5,000 were in Auglaize County; 3,300 were in Mercer County; 3,000 were in Hardin County; 2,800 were in Putnam County; and 2,500 were in Van Wert County, according to ODJFS data for April.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.