Region jobless rates nearing pre-COVID levels

By Mackenzi Klemann -

LIMA — Jobless rates around most of West Central Ohio are returning to their pre-pandemic normal nearly six months after Ohio’s stay-at-home order that left more than a million Ohioans suddenly out of work — the fastest and most severe recession the state has experienced since the Great Depression.

But behind those numbers are persistent labor-force participation troubles and the coming end of extended jobless benefits for Ohioans whose state benefits have lapsed, underscoring the difficulty of reviving the economy amid a worsening public health crisis.

Allen County’s jobless rate fell by 0.7 percentage points to 5.3% in November, which is now just 1.5 percentage points lower than last November.

The November unemployment data is a substantial improvement over April, when Allen County’s jobless rate peaked at 20.5% and roughly 10,000 residents here were out of work, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

But Allen County’s labor force contracted too, with roughly 1,400 fewer workers classified as employed or unemployed in November than in October, preliminary ODJFS data show.

A similar trend is unfolding across the West Central Ohio region, with the exception of Van Wert and Putnam counties, which saw their jobless rates increase by 0.1 percentage points in November.

Ohio’s jobless rate fell to 5.7% in November, a full percentage point lower than the 6.7% U.S. unemployment rate.

Still, initial jobless claims have been rising since October, with more than 74,000 new unemployment insurance applications received in December alone, according to ODJFS reports for the first two weeks of December.

By Mackenzi Klemann

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