ST. MARYS — After months of teetering back and forth, unemployment rates in Auglaize County tumbled more than half a percent in August.
According to data released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Auglaize County’s unemployment rate settled in at 7.4 percent — down from 8.1 percent in July. The unemployment rate a year ago was 8.6 percent.
Much of the region experienced a dip in unemployment. Mercer County came in the with lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.8 percent — down from 6.5 percent. Auglaize County’s rate put it as the eighth lowest out of Ohio’s 88 counties.
“It’s good news and I think we are going in the right direction,” St. Marys Development Manager Todd Fleagle told The Evening Leader. “Our two-county area remains strong.”
Fleagle also said he believes the area is starting to shake off the dust of a stagnant economy.
“I know at least from my side we are starting to see companies talking about hiring again,” Fleagle said. “I don’t think people need to read the Wall Street Journal to see that. I am hoping we are coming out of the slump.”
Diversification is something Fleagle said helped the region weather the economic storm better than some other parts of the state. However, Fleagle noted that at 7.4 percent, the unemployment rate is still too high.
“It’s still tough out there for people who are unemployed or under employed,” Fleagle said. “Hopefully that growth will continue in Auglaize County.”
In recent months, Fleagle visited local manufacturing facilities to meet with company officials. During those meetings, Fleagle said one theme surfaced.
“It’s pretty much across the board that they are cautiously optimistic,” Fleagle said. “Some companies were impacted several months ago by the earthquake but I think those supply chains are much improved and you will see that locally. We’ve talked with businesses in the past about expansion and those appear on board and are moving toward actually doing it now. They think the economy will pick up enough to justify the new investment.”
The rest of the region experienced a similar dip in rates. Allen County is at 9.5 percent (down from 10.1 percent), Shelby County is at 9.1 percent (down from 10 percent), Van Wert County is at 9.3 percent (down from 10 percent), Darke County is at 8.5 percent (down from 9.3 percent), Logan County is at 9.4 percent (down from 10.4 percent) and Hardin County is at 9.6 percent (down from 10.8 percent).
Statewide, the unemployment rate fell 0.4 percent to 8.8 percent in August. Last year, the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent.