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Unemployment rates in the six-county region increased from December to January.

The rates increased in all 88 counties, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Locally, Putnam County had the lowest rate at 4.4 percent, with Henry County having the highest at 6.9 percent. The rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Statewide, Mercer County had the lowest rate at 3.2 percent. Monroe County hit 12.1 percent for the highest, a rate not seasonally adjusted. The statewide unemployment rate for January was 5.4 percent, compared to 4.8 percent in December. The U.S. rate was 4.4 percent for January, up from 3.7 percent in December.

Here is a look at January’s unemployment rates, with December’s in parentheses, for the region: Defiance County, 5.1 percent (4.7 percent); Henry County, 6.9 percent (5.8 percent); Paulding County, 4.9 percent (4.5 percent); Putnam County, 4.4 percent (4 percent); Fulton County, 6 percent (4.9 percent); and Williams County, 4.3 percent (3.8 percent).

“I’m baffled,” said Defiance County Economic Development Director Jerry Hayes on the increase. “I’m not aware of any layoffs. People are still hiring.”

He noted with the labor force estimate having just 100 people unemployed could move the percentage a quarter of a percent.

The labor force estimates, which accompany unemployment figures, have some economic development officials concerned. Labor force estimates for the region include: Defiance County, 18,100; Henry County, 13,200; Fulton County, 22,500; Paulding County, 8,500; Putnam County, 18,400; and Williams County, 18,800.

Paulding County Economic Development director Jerry Zielke said he also is uncertain why unemployment increased from December to January.

“We question the numbers,” he said. “I don’t know how they can raise the number when I don’t know of anyone who is laying off. I have tons of companies wanting people. We have more people coming to our career showcase (for high school students) on April 2 than before. We even have people coming from out of county that want employees.”

The career showcase is for sophomores through seniors in Paulding County and held at the OSU Extension building.

Zielke said with the tight labor market many employers are hoping to hire students right out of high school, so the showcase is to help connect those job opportunities.

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