BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - After eyebrows were raised two weeks ago by the huge jump in the unemployment rate, the latest report shows a more optimistic picture.

Civilian labor force estimates for February were released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services showing Van Wert County's jobless rate dropping by nearly a full percentage point to 7.6 percent in February. The rate spiked in the January report at 8.5 percent. The January increase was the largest in the county's unemployment rate since early 2009.
The only difference between the January and February reports came in the estimated number of unemployed workers in the county. While the January report had upped that figure to 1,200, in February the number decreased back to 1,000 - the same estimate as most of 2012. The employment number remained 12,600 with the estimated labor force slipping to 13,700. Due to rounding, labor force numbers do not always equal the sum of the unemployed and employment figures.

The story was the same throughout the state with all 88 counties reporting decreases in their jobless rates. Around the area, Paulding County saw a drop from 8.1 percent in January to 7.5 percent in February with 100 more estimated on the job and 100 additional out of work. Putnam County's rate fell from 8.1 percent to 7.5 percent. In Allen County the rate fell from 9.1 percent to 8.3 percent. Auglaize County had a decrease from 6.2 percent in January to 5.8 percent in February. Even the county with the state's lowest jobless rate saw a decrease. In Mercer County the rate dropped a half-point to 4.8 percent last month.

Although the rates dropped all over the state, these rates were usually not as large as the increase reported in January. In Van Wert County, the rate in December was 7.0 percent, so the February report is still a six-tenths increase in two months. In Allen County, the unemployment rate had also fallen to 7.0 percent in December, but after a jump to 9.1 percent in January, the rate is still up to 8.3 percent according to the February figures.

With the rate drops in all Ohio counties, Van Wert remains near the same position in the county rankings. In January the county was tied for 52nd-highest of the 88 counties in the state. The February report has Van Wert County tied with Hardin, Portage, and Washington counties with the 53rd-highest rate.

The highest rate in the state again belonged to Pike County at 13.7 percent. Eight other counties reported rates greater than 11.0 percent: Meigs and Morgan (12.8 percent), Adams (12.6 percent), Ottawa and Huron (12.2 percent), Vinton and Scioto (11.9 percent), and Noble (11.2 percent).

Only four counties had unemployment rates lower than 6.0 percent in February: Auglaize (5.8 percent), Holmes (5.4 percent), Delaware (5.2 percent), and Mercer (4.8 percent).

Ohio's seasonally adjusted state jobless rate held steady at 7.0 percent in February.