By Kirk Dougal
Group Publisher

PUTNAM COUNTY - After unemployment rates in Ohio counties jumped in January due in part to calculation adjustments, the jobless rates continued a two-month fall around the state last month. In Putnam County the rate fell one-half of a percentage point from 7.1 percent in February to 6.6 percent in March, leaving the county with the 14th best mark.
In total, 85 out of 88 Ohio counties saw their unemployment rates decline. This matched last Friday's report which showed the state average falling from 7.6 percent in February to 7.3 percent. Mercer County continues to lead Ohio with the lowest jobless rate, coming in at 4.6 percent. Mercer was one of six counties at less than six percent with Delaware (4.9%), Holmes (5.1%), Auglaize (5.4%), Union (5.7%), and neighboring Hancock (5.8%) all staying below that mark as well.

Southeast Ohio continues to see the largest concentration of unemployment with Pike County still the worst in the state at 13.4 percent, despite a three-tenths drop from February. Other nearby counties fared better with Van Wert at 7.4 percent, Paulding at 7.0 percent and Hardin at 7.5 percent. Allen County was the highest in the area at 8.0 percent.

At the same time last year, Putnam County was at 6.7 percent unemployment. However, because of the process for reporting unemployment figures, the one-tenth percentage drop is not a true reflection of the unemployment picture, both locally and around the country.

In March of 2012, Putnam County showed a workforce of 18,000 residents with 16,800 employed and 1,200 unemployed. Last month, the county reported a workforce of 17,400 people with 16,200 employed and 1,100 without jobs. Although the percentage of persons out of work was lower, 600 fewer residents were listed in the workforce and 600 fewer were employed. This drop in employment is a reflection of workers no longer counting in the unemployment system either because they have been out of work so long they are out of benefits or they are have become discouraged and are no longer looking for employment. (Editor's Note: All statistics are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services.)

At a national level, the unemployment figures are represented by six different classifications. The U-3 figure is the most commonly used number and has been considered the official U.S. unemployment percentage since 1994. March's federal U-3 jobless rate was 7.6 percent.

By comparison, the U-6 jobless statistic also counts disaffected workers, those who are out of benefits or not actively searching for work. The U.S. U-6 unemployment percentage for March was 13.8 percent.