As Vice President Joe Biden listened to stories of people who had lost their jobs in the Perrysburg area
Tuesday, the latest unemployment stats for the region were just beginning to sink in.
Numbers released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services this week showed Wood County’s
unemployment rate peaked at 12 percent in May.
"Obviously it’s terrible news for citizens in Wood County who are unemployed," Wood County
Commissioner Tim Brown said of the latest jobless statistics.
The ripples from the high unemployment are far reaching. The effects can be seen in several other local
statistics: growing home foreclosures, crime rates, demands at food pantries and the free health clinic,
a nosedive in sales tax revenue, and requests for food stamps, Medicaid and cash benefits. And finally,
the county is seeing another ugly side to high unemployment – a spike in child abuse and neglect cases.
"We were waiting for it, and it hit with a vengeance," Paulette Stephens, director of the Wood
County Department of Job and Family Services, said about studies that connect child abuse increases with
higher unemployment numbers.
"Bills are piling up and frustrations are setting in," she said of families struggling with job
losses. Last year, the local Children’s Services agency got 40 reports of abuse and neglect for the
entire month of June. The agency got the same number in just the first two weeks of June this year,
The local Job and Family Services office is also seeing a jump in people signing up for food stamps and
"We’re gaining about 150 assistance cases per month," Stephens said.
While the office is keeping up with the requests, Stephens is concerned about the number of people who
will run out of unemployment benefits in September when the extension period expires.
"Food stamps will be about all we can issue, and that concerns me," she said.
In the same building, the county’s JobSolutions program is seeing more people desperately in search of
work. And they are not the typical clients of the service, according to Mary DeWitt, head of the
"We’re seeing more people who have their master’s degrees or they’ve been vice president of human
resources," DeWitt said of the jump in white collar clients in need of employment. "They are
from all walks of life."
But the outlook isn’t bright.
"Unfortunately, at this time, no one is hiring," DeWitt said.
However, in the meantime the JobSolutions program is helping people write resumes that make their
qualifications stand out, brush up on their interview skills, and search for jobs on the Internet.
"We want to get people prepared for when they start hiring," she said.
The only ray of sunshine in the otherwise dismal outlook is that no WARN notices have been filed recently
in Wood County. The notices are required by law if a company is planning to close or have mass layoffs
in the next 60 days.
"That’s good," DeWitt said.
Wood County’s 12-percent jobless rate pushes it well over the current national rate of 9.4 percent and
Ohio rate of 10.8 percent.
But the latest surge in unemployment was not unexpected, since the restructuring of the automobile
industry was predicted to cause jobless rates to spike.
"We kind of saw this coming," Brown said. "We’ve got a pretty solid system in place to be
of assistance and help with job training."
But the task is getting more difficult, with the number of unemployed people growing and the number of
jobs available shrinking.
However, Brown said careers in alternative energies, like wind and solar, and at the proposed intermodal
CSX site near North Baltimore, can help revive the region’s sagging economy.
"This can be Wood County’s future," he said. "These are all jobs that are coming."
According to Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter, the wait may not be too long for some laid off workers.
Last week, it was announced that the Chrysler machining plant in Perrysburg Township, which employed
close to 800 workers, would start operations again in a couple weeks.
"It looks bad, but we hope it gets better," Carter said. "I anticipate things to pick up
in the next month."
And as people go back to work, they will spend more money and help jumpstart the local economy, Carter
"The economy will start to pick up," he said.
County officials were surprised in January when the local unemployment rate hit 11.6 percent. That was
more than 14,500 residents without work – the equivalent of half the population of Bowling Green.
Until recently, Wood County’s jobless rate was lower than most areas in the state. And for a while, the
county seemed almost immune to the economic ills hitting much of the nation.
"I honestly don’t remember it being in the double digits since I’ve been doing this job," Wood
County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Tom Blaha said earlier this year. He has held
that position since 1985.
Jobless rates reported for other Northwest Ohio counties in May include: Defiance, 16.1 percent; Fulton,
13.6; Hancock, 10.2; Henry, 14.2; Lucas, 13.4; Ottawa, 12.8; Sandusky, 11.8; and Seneca, 12.7. Among
cities, Toledo had a 14.3 percent jobless rate.