ST. MARYS — Auglaize County ended 2011 with an unemployment rate almost 2 percent less than where it ended 2010.
In data released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Auglaize County recorded a December unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, down from 6.4 percent in November. In 2010, the unemployment rate for December sat at 8.2 percent.
“We have the sixth best in the state of Ohio right now,” Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Director Greg Myers told The Evening Leader. “We are among 29 counties in the state that are below the state’s 7.6 percent.”
Myers said the declining local numbers are a testament to the strong manufacturing and industrial bases found in Auglaize County.
“It says we are putting people back to work and doing it faster than the state and by and large the nation, which is at 8.3 percent unemployment,” Myers said. “Our companies are rebounding better than the national average but that’s not to say there are still 1,600 people on the unemployment rolls in the county and we need to make sure we help them all find good paying jobs.”
The rest of the region provided mixed results. Mercer County dropped to 4.9 percent, down from 5 percent in November. That gave Mercer County the distinction of having the lowest unemployment rate in the state.
Allen County remained the same with an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, Darke County was at 7.7 percent (up 0.1 percent), Hardin County was at 8.6 percent (up 0.6 percent), Logan County was at 7.8 percent (down 0.1 percent), Shelby County was at 7.7 percent (remained the same) and Van Wert County was at 8.2 percent (remained the same).
Myers said the job picture in Auglaize County could get better in the future.
“We are seeing additional inquiries about some new plants coming in,” Myers said. “There are projects looking at Auglaize County currently and we just need to close some deals.”
New Bremen Economic Development Director Angela Hamberg said she has noticed an uptick in economic activity in the village.
“Income tax receipts have been going up within the past year so that’s a positive sign for the village,” Hamberg said. “It’s a key indicator of the improving economy.”
At 6.3 percent. Hamberg said the county’s unemployment rate is creeping toward the 5.5 percent target many officials seek.
“Personally I am pleased because 5.5 percent is usually the target — 5.5 percent means everyone who wants to be working is working,” Hamberg said. “This gets us closer to the target that we want to be at.”
Hamberg said facilities within the region as still having a difficult time filing skilled positions.
“They have a need for a skilled work force,” Hamberg said.
“That’s the topic I am hearing the loudest and the need for immediate and pipeline creation for those who are retiring in the coming years.”