The above graph shows the month-to-month unemployment rate for nearby counties, and how they relate to Putnam County, along with the state and country for comparison - Putnam Sentinel
The above graph shows the month-to-month unemployment rate for nearby counties, and how they relate to Putnam County, along with the state and country for comparison. (Graph, Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — The unemployment statistics for December 2018 were recently reported by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. With a not-seasonally adjusted rate of four percent, employment in Putnam County remains strong. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve currently considers full employment to have occurred when the unemployment rate is between four and one-tenth and four and seven-tenths of a percent. Meaning that the county is at full employment, and has been throughout the entirety of 2018.

However, the county has slipped a little bit as well. At the midpoint of 2018, Putnam County was tied with Wyandot County for the lowest unemployment in the state at three percent. The rate then spiked from a low of two and four-fifths of a percent in Sep. to four percent in Dec., dropping Putnam down to twelfth place related to the state’s other 87 counties.

Though ‘spiked’ may be too strong of a word. The difference between the top county (Mercer at three and one-tenth a percent) and Putnam is very small, less than a full percentage point. And, the statistics are not seasonally adjusted. The increase can likely be easily explained by seasonal layoffs in construction and related industries.

The real question, then, is why has Putnam County demonstrated such strong employment numbers for the year, consistently outperforming the state as a whole, along with the entire country?

“Our children are raised with a true work ethic, generation after generation,” answers Kathi Amstutz, President of the Leipsic Chamber of Commerce. “Our children are taught how to work early on in life, whether it is on a family farm or mowing lawns to earn money.”

Amstutz also gives credit to area schools for offering a number of different pathways to future success. “We are blessed with administrators that see the value in offering more in the classroom than Math and Science,” she says. “Our children have the opportunity to learn Bio-Med, Engineering, and Life Skills…They also have the opportunity to attend Millstream or Apollo to learn trades that they can use right after graduation.”

This sentiment was reflected almost exactly by Cory King who serves as the Secretary for Columbus Grove’s Chamber of Commerce. “In my past experiences in the education field, I can certainly attest to the majority of students with well above average work ethic. Most students have the internal drive to succeed and that is a direct reflection on their upbringing…Education is the very basic foundation of a thriving economic environment and prosperous communities.”

Katie Unverferth, President of Kalida’s Chamber of Commerce agrees as well, saying, “We’re sustaining a very solid workforce of hard workers, people who are very reliable, and match the skill sets needed in Putnam County.”

She also goes on to add, “It does present a challenge to employers. It’s kind of hard to draw in new talent.”

“This is not only because of the low unemployment rate,” Unverferth continues, “But, also because area employers offer competitive benefit packages beyond the base wage. Being able to access full benefits from day one, for example, helps create more loyalty, making it harder to attract talented employees from their current positions.”

When asked how employers might work to attract new employees, Unverferth answers, “Quality of life, outside of the office and outside of work, is a huge deal. Especially to the younger crowd coming right out of college.”

“I know the trend has been to stay in the cities. To draw people out to our area, maybe offer opportunities that include work-from-home type scenarios.”

“Obviously, they’d still be expected to work the solid eight hours [a day], and go 40 hours a week. But, maybe opening the door to different lines of thinking like that could draw in some people who may not be willing to leave the city full time.”

“Instead of people from here going to Toledo or Cleveland, they could come here for a couple of days out of the week. That could help draw them in…and then they see the low cost of living, and again, good benefits, and family friendly businesses.”

“We’re very fortunate around here to have hard workers and loyal people. Now, it’s just about attracting them from elsewhere.”