Unemployment tumbles

Unemployment rates across the region tumbled in May.

According to data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Auglaize County registered an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent in May, a decrease from 5.9 percent in April. That figured ranked the county six-lowest in the state and among seven that recorded a figure at or less than 5.5 percent. Last year, the county had an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.

Low unemployment can pose a problem for attracting major investing companies or already-existing businesses in the county, but Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Executive Director Greg Myers said Auglaize County is a special case.

“Auglaize County is in the heart of a 13-county region,” Myers said. “We had the second lowest unemployment in the area next to Mercer County, but we are regionally centered with easy access from Interstate 75 and U.S. 33. We have a lot of counties in that area where the unemployment is still higher, and the workers that are available in the county have good skills.”

Like Myers, St. Marys Development Manager Susan Crotty called the lower rate a good sign of the local economy.

“It’s a positive in that we move closer to full employment,” St. Marys Development Manager Susan Crotty said. “It also indicates positive signs for the economy, but we do need to take into consideration it can be a mixed blessing because something we have been talking about is how we can help local businesses find the skilled workers they need.”

In an effort to pair local industries with skilled workers, economic development officials across the county have been working on a workforce development initiative. Crotty said access to skilled workers is something endusers often echo during meetings.

“Anyone who is looking to expand or build a new facility, they want to make sure they locate where they can find workers who can help them produce their products,” Crotty said. “There are a lot of sites available and a lot of incentives out there, but one of the main criteria is the work force.”

During the June 12 St. Marys City Council meeting, councilors approved the purchase of 19 acres of recently annexed land along County Road 33A. The parcel is expected to be offered to endusers as an industrial park — something Crotty said adds to the city’s portfolio of available development locations.

“We have a better variety of sites that can meet the needs of businesses looking to locate here in town,” Crotty said. “We’d be willing to walk to anyone who wants the full 19 acres, but it could also be subdivided into 2- to5-  acre sites for smaller users. We have had some interest in the site and we will follow up to see if that interest is still there.”

The rest of the region saw similar declines. Mercer County recorded the lowest unemployment rate in the state with a 4.2 percent rate, a decrease from 4.5 percent. Allen County came in at 7.5 percent, a decrease from 8 percent, Shelby County came in at 6.8 percent, a decline from 7.2 percent, Van Wert County came in at 6.9 percent, a decline from 7.3 percent, Darke County registered a rate of 6.3 percent, a decline from 7.1 percent, Hardin County registered a rate of  7.3 percent, a decrease from 7.5 percent and Logan County came in at 6.6 percent, a decrease from 7.2 percent.