Finally, positive signs for the local economy

Perhaps the first sign of an improving economy came a week ago, during the Seneca County Job Fair.

About 175 people attended the event last week; some 500 attended the inaugural job fair a year earlier.

Was the dropoff due to lower interest … or reduced need?

Then came the workforce stats for April, putting the county jobless rate at 4.9 percent. There are elementary school students playing coach-pitch ball who hadn’t yet been born the last time the rate was that low.

The rate fell more than a percentage point since March. But, unlike some previous monthly changes, the rate didn’t shrink due to a drop in the labor force.

No, the estimated tally of people working or looking for work was 27,800 in April, according to Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Because these numbers are rounded to the nearest 100, that’s at least as many as the previous month.

Meanwhile, the number of people working rose by 400 and the number of folks who were unemployed dropped by 300.

If these figures are accurate, they are good news – especially for those who already are employed. Why?

Politicians can make the minimum wage into a political football. Everyone can argue about executive compensation and unequal pay. But full employment – a jobless rate at or near 4 percent – would allow market forces to drive up wages for everyone. And a healthy economy would support it.

We’re not there yet. But if the employment picture continues to improve, we could get there – this year.