ST. MARYS — For the second consecutive month, Auglaize County ranked among the top 10 lowest in the state in terms of unemployment.
In data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Auglaize County registered an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent in April, down from the 6.4 percent it saw in March. That placed Auglaize County among the eight counties with unemployment rates less than 6 percent. Last year, the county’s unemployment rate sat at 7.4 percent. Mercer County recorded the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 4.5 percent, down from 4.9 percent.
“To me, that’s a testament to the type of people, the type of workers and the type of companies we have in this area,” Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing said. “I think we are blessed with a lot of small to medium-sized industries in our region.”
Ebbing noted the diversity in the region helped it escape the full brunt of the recession. While some communities have one major employer, Ebbing said the Auglaize and Mercer counties region “was blessed” with a variety of employers not tied to a single industry.
“We may not have that one big hit or home run — some counties look for that home run to attract that one big business,” Ebbing said. “Our region has had a lot of singles and now, a lot of those singles are turning into runs coming across the plate. Hitting singles all the time isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
As Ebbing makes retention and expansion visits across the region, one common theme emerges.
“A lot of companies are coming out of the recession here locally but their competition is not,” Ebbing said. “We have, in our area, companies that have been so well run so that in the heart of the recession, they were able to survive where their competition didn’t. As a result, they are picking up a larger market share and that’s a testament to how well these companies have been run.”
One barrier Ebbing identified that could hinder future growth is the availability of skilled workers. Ebbing said local companies are in search of highly skilled workers in the manufacturing sector as the current workforce moves toward retirement.
“I think there are companies that would expand in the near future if they knew they had a pipeline of young workers who are able and willing to go into the profession,” Ebbing said. “There are a lot of advanced manufacturing jobs and people don’t realize it’s not the same as an old, industrial factory and a lot of these jobs are in our two-county region.
The rest of the region saw similar declines. Allen County registered a rate of 8 percent (down from 8.5 percent), Shelby County registered a rate of 7.2 percent (down from 7.9 percent), Van Wert County registered a rate of 7.3 percent (down from 7.9 percent), Hardin County registered a rate of 7.5 percent (down from 8.1 percent), Logan County registered a rate of 7.2 percent (down from 7.7 percent) and Darke County registered a rate of 7.1 percent (down from 8 percent).
Statewide, the unemployment rate fell 0.1 percent to 7.4 percent. A year ago, the unemployment rate sat at 8.8 percent.