A surge in government hiring in June along with gains in the battered leisure and hospitality sector pushed Ohio’s employment level to its highest mark since the start of the pandemic, according to state employment data released Friday.
Hiring gains aside, Ohio’s unemployment rate did move up to 5.2% in June from 5% in May because of an increase in the labor force, data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services shows.
The state’s employers added 31,300 jobs last month, the best performance since last September. Ohio now has 5.32 million jobs, the highest mark since March 2020.
The state has recovered about two-thirds of the jobs lost during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and needs about 290,000 more jobs to get back to even.
Several sectors added jobs during the month.
Gains in local and state government boosted government hiring by 11,400 jobs last month. Hiring in the leisure and hospitality sector, a sector hurt badly by COVID-19, added 10,600 jobs.
There was a 5,000-job gain in private education and health care and a gain of 4,600 jobs in the trade transportation and utilities sector.
The professional and business services sector lost 1,100 jobs during the month, and the construction sector gave up 800 jobs.
The report was a rebound from May, when Ohio’s economy lost 14,500 jobs and a staggering 216,300 workers left the labor force.
Nearly 30,000 people joined the labor force in June. Not all those workers found jobs, and the number of unemployed rose by 13,000 in the month to 291,000 workers.
Even with the jump in the unemployment rate, the 5.2% rate remains below the U.S. rate of 5.9% in June.
The report shows many Ohioans are still reluctant to get back into the workplace, and that could be bad news for companies struggling to hire workers, said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide.
The percentage of adults working or looking for work in Ohio remained low at 60.2% in June. It was 63.7% before COVID-19.
“The lower participation rate suggests that many Ohio workers remain reticent to re-enter the workforce despite tight labor conditions across many industries in the state,” Ayers said in a research note. “We expect these trends to ease in coming months, but Ohio companies may continue to have difficulty finding workers for some time.”
Despite a strong nationwide economy, Ayers said job growth in Ohio has shown only modest improvement in 2021, and the state has added just 9,000 jobs over the past three months compared with 1.7 million nationwide.
“Labor force participation in Ohio is well below normal levels, and the lack of available workers is likely holding down job growth in the state,” he said.