State and national jobless numbers are closely watched as economic indicators, and the unemployment figures can also give useful clues for those seeking their first full-time job.
Last month, 323,000 Ohio adults were actively seeking work and not able to find a job, and the unemployment rate crept up for the first time in several months. The figure includes recent high school and college graduates looking for that first job, or an entry level job.
“First of all, the availability of jobs is not terribly encouraging,” says Randy Olsen, an Ohio State University economist. He says Ohio and the U.S. are experiencing what he calls a “mild” recovery from the Great Recession. But the labor force, those working or looking for work, remains smaller now than in 2007. Olsen adds current economic growth is too tepid to make employers hire more aggressively.
“One percent rate of growth in the economy or something close to that is not a growth rate that’s going to make a huge dent in the labor market,” says Olsen. He says that slow growth restrains hiring and keeps wages from rising too fast.
At the Department of Job and Family Services, spokesman Ben Johnson says 186,000 jobs are currently posted on the agency’s website. But, he says about a third of those jobs pay $30,000 dollars or less and, in most cases, a high school education is all that’s needed to apply.
“About 54.9 percent of all the jobs posted statewide required only a G.E.D. or a high school diploma and about 49.7 percent of the jobs posted in the Columbus region required only a G.E.D. or high school diploma,” says Johnson.
Johnson adds that many of those available jobs are service-sector occupations.
“Truck drivers are one of the top three or five, retail salesperson is one of the top three of five. Front line retail supervisor is one of the top three of five. Retail, retail supervising and truck drivers in many cases probably only require a G.E.D. or a high school diploma,” Johnson says.
Olsen views Ohio’s job market as instructive. While more jobs are being listed on job boards and classifieds in recent months, openings skew toward lower paying positions that require only a high school diploma. It's harder for recent college graduates to launch a career.
“A lot of the jobs that have sprung up have been in less well-paying occupations. The good jobs that I think new undergraduates would like to secure, the opportunities aren’t there like they were ten or more years ago,” says Olsen.
Olsen says until the economy accelerates faster, first-time job opportunities with higher wages will remain elusive.
Tom Borgerding is a reporter and managing editor for Ohio Public Radio member station WOSU in Columbus.