Paul E. Kostyu reports:
Ohio led the nation in adding 28,300 jobs in February, beating out Texas and New York, according to figures released Friday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Service-providing industries, which include trade, transportation and utilities, as well as government jobs, led Ohio’s gain with 21,300 jobs, according to data released last week by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Construction and manufacturing also were among the industries that saw gains last month.
“Wow,” said George Vredeveld, an economics professor at the University of Cincinnati, when told of Friday’s federal report.
Vredeveld said his first instinct is that Ohio’s manufacturing base “has had a pretty good heartbeat for the past nine to 10 months.” And if the numbers indicate a revival of manufacturing, “then that’s good because Ohio is obviously heavy in manufacturing.”
Manufacturing has gained 18,600 jobs since February 2011. Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in February, down from 7.7 percent in January.
“That’s very good news,” Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John R. Kasich, said Friday. “But we have so much work to be done. We were in a very deep hole.”
Nichols said improved employment should strengthen Kasich’s hand in dealing with the Ohio Legislature. Lawmakers have been hesitant to go along with the governor’s plan to lower state income taxes while increasing taxes on energy companies tapping oil and natural gas reserves in shale deposits in the eastern half of the state.
“Over the previous decade, Ohio lost 600,000 jobs and in the last 14 months we’ve added 83,000,” Nichols said. “We have to reduce the tax burden on Ohioans.”
Ohio has led job growth in the Midwest and has been in the top five states nationally for a couple months, something Kasich points out on a regular basis.
But Vredeveld cautioned that “one or two months do not a trend make, so let’s be careful. We can be hopeful.”
Nichols said he doesn’t mind giving some credit to the national economic policies of President Barack Obama for Ohio’s job growth.
“We don’t care who gets the credit,” he said. “This is not about politics. It’s about getting Ohio back on track.”
Vredeveld said 75 to 85 percent of changes in state and local economies are influenced by national economic policy, but he said “what we’re doing in Ohio” has an impact.
“I wouldn’t discount the impact of state policy on job growth,” he said.
The Labor Department said unemployment declined in 29 states and rose in eight. Unemployment was unchanged in 13 states and Washington, D.C. Job growth was broader in January when unemployment rates declined in 45 states.
Ohio’s job numbers come on the heels of Moody’s recent upgrade of the state’s credit rating from “negative watch” to “stable.”
Nichols said it was the first time since 2007 that Ohio has had a stable credit rating from all three major rating agencies – Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.
Nationwide, employers added 227,000 net non-farm jobs in February, just under the average of 245,000 jobs per month since December.
That has helped lower the national unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years. The economy is expanding modestly, but economists expect the stronger job market will help lift growth later this year. The data released Friday may suggest that is already happening.
The Associated Press contributed.
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