Local businesses and job-seekers may finally have reason for optimism, even if the statewide prognosis looks grim.
According to numbers released by the state Tuesday, unemployment rates actually improved in Erie, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca counties in August, even as unemployment in Ohio and the nation continued to soar.
The unemployment rate dropped in Erie County from 7.9 percent in July to 6.7 percent in August; it dropped from 10.7 percent to 8.9 percent in Huron County; from 8.2 percent to 7.9 percent in Ottawa County; from 7.8 percent to 7.3 percent in Sandusky County; and from 8 percent to 7.2 percent in Seneca County.
"That's sort of a ray of good news," said Mark Litten, executive director of the Erie County Economic Development Corp. "I found the numbers encouraging."
Yet despite the local progress, Ohio's unemployment rate rose from 7.2 percent in July to 7.4 percent in August -- the highest it's been in almost 16 years. In six counties -- Meigs, Morgan, Pike, Crawford, Van Wert and Vinton -- unemployment rates skyrocketed above 10 percent.
National unemployment also rose, jumping 5.7 percent in July to 6.1 percent.
Local experts couldn't explain why local counties outperformed the rest of the state.
"It's hard to infer the reason just from looking at statistics," Litten said. "It looks like some hiring has been going on ... (but) it's hard to pinpoint why it's different here. But I think this is definitely a positive."
Rick Carson, an administrator at Your Job Store, said he tracks placements and the number of customers coming into the store each day, and he didn't detect a noticeable difference in August. The store is a local government agency that helps job seekers with resumes, job searching, skill assessments, applications, career fairs and specific hiring events.
"Our placements have remained steady," Carson said. "And the number of people coming in on a daily basis, 60 to 70 customers, remains the same."
But Carson said it's difficult to gauge the local economy's progress by his clientele, because not everybody who comes to Your Job Store is unemployed. Some customers are just unhappy with their current jobs or looking for better-paying opportunities.
Carson said he hoped the drop in unemployment was an indicator the local economy was rebounding.
"Whether the economy goes up or down doesn't always affect our numbers," he said. "But I hope we are affecting (the unemployment rate); I hope we're a part of that lower number; and I hope it continues."