Federal data shows there are 3,140 counties in the U.S.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all but 41 of them had a lower unemployment rate than Huron County in January.
Unemployment in Huron County for the first month of 2009 stood at a whopping 18.3 percent, a 26-year high.
Jump to February and the county’s economic climate improved — but not by much.
Figures released Tuesday show Huron County’s unemployment last month was 18 percent, making the county lead the state in joblessness for the third month in a row.
Nine Ohio counties had unemployment rates higher than 15 percent in February. Ottawa County — ranked No. 2 for unemployment in Ohio — had a 16.6 percent rate.
Erie County fared better, ranking 23rd in the state with a rate of 13.5 percent. Sandusky County ranked 28th with a 13.2 percent rate.
The national rate sits at about 8.1 percent.
There are many consequences of having so many out-of-work residents, said Huron County deputy auditor Dennis Stieber.
“There’s a ripple effect that affects every area of the economy. If the people aren’t employed, they are not going to the stores. They’re probably still trying to buy essentials, at the very least, instead of going out and buying appliances and automobiles — large sales tax items, which in turn, would bring in more money to the economy,” Stieber said.
Unemployed residents are less likely to frequent local restaurants and retail outlets, county officials said. Local businesses are increasingly suffering from a shrinking customer base.
Huron County Commissioner Mike Adelman said several things are going on in his county.
A huge agricultural and construction-based workforce makes Huron County’s unemployment climb during the winter months, Adelman said. Construction slows down until the snow melts and weather improves. Same goes for farming operations.
But come May, the unemployment rate historically drops by at least several percentage points.
Unemployment in Huron County was 10.6 percent in January 2008. By May, it fell to 7.5 percent.
It’s a trend that has remained steady in the last 30-plus years, according to state figures.
“Our unemployment figures at this time of the year always seem to be a little higher that surrounding counties and the state average,” Adelman said.
Sue terVeen, Job Store assistant in Norwalk, was shocked to see unemployment dip slightly in Huron County. She was sure it was headed the other way.
“I thought it would have gone up, based on the number of people we see on a regular basis. I was surprised but very happy to see it drop,” she said.
Despite the grim economic landscape, terVeen said residents should remember there are resources to help them find a job. Every day, the Job Store helps another person land an interview or even get hired.
terVeen said no figures — regardless of how bleak they are — should discourage residents from continuing the hunt for employment.