Job growth slowed in May across the country, stoking fears that the economic recovery is sputtering out.
While state and local employment numbers lag behind national figures, Friday's bleak employment report likely means bad news for Northeast Ohio, said George Zeller, a Cleveland-area economic research analyst.
"This is a bad sign," Zeller said. "Definitely the national economic trends affect us."
The country added 54,000 jobs in May, drastically lower than analysts expected. Zeller said that the latest report also revised down the April numbers by 17,000 and the March numbers by 20,000, meaning job growth has not been as robust during the last few months as many analysts initially thought.
Beyond the numbers, people either unable to find work or those recently laid off find themselves in difficult circumstances. Maria Bolick Martinez, a resident of suburban Stow, said she lost her job at a local preschool last week – the same day her daughter graduated from Stow High School.
Martinez said she lost her job because many parents are being forced to work full time and are looking for all-day care for their children instead of a two-hour preschool.
"More and more families need both parents working and we have suffered the consequences," Martinez said.
Lock Reynolds, a labor economics expert at Kent State University, said this latest jobs report shows the country has taken a big step back from the mild improvement we had seen in labor markets in the past few months.
“The question always is, is it a one-month step back?" Reynolds said. "Maybe it’s just a temporary blip down. What everyone is concerned about is, if this is the beginning of a new trend."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the "Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor" metropolitan region added jobs in April, as the unemployment rate ticked down to 7.6 percent from 8.3 percent in March.
Locally, unemployment in some suburbs tracked by the state also improved. Cleveland Heights saw its unemployment rate drop slightly to 6.1 percent while Lakewood improved to 7 percent from 7. 4 percent in March.
As of the end of April, many of the counties in Northeast Ohio had better job numbers than the overall state rate of 8. 6 percent. Those include Cuyahoga, Lake, Summit and Portage counties. Stark County had a higher rate at 9.2 percent.
But while state and local jobless figures showed improvement in April, Zeller cautions that those numbers are deceptive because they were taken before a surge of jobless claims in late April.
He said the all indications are that statewide job estimates for May are "also going to be weak." Those reports will be released June 17.
Reynolds, from Kent State, said the economy slowly chipped away at the unemployment rate as businesses added jobs each month. But May’s labor figures show the labor market changed from mere slow growth to actually weakening.
“One observation doesn’t make a trend, but the concern is, will next month be as bad as this month?” he said.
Harvey Salkin, professor in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, said he's not optimistic about the economic future, and is worried about college graduates entering the job market for several reasons. One concern is that they're not pursuing professions that are in demand now.
"I think American students, for the most part, are in big trouble ... I don’t think the work ethic and the cultural aspects of students today are like what they used to be. People were more motivated, were more driven and worked harder," Salkin said. "Americans don't want to work that hard. They don't want to become engineers. And there's a big demand for engineers, almost any kind."
Reynolds said he doesn’t anticipate the influx of new college graduates will have too much of an impact on the labor market trend next month. But it’s certainly a tough time for new graduates trying to find jobs and start careers.
“These numbers are not good news for anyone who’s graduating college right now," he said. "It’s not encouraging that very few people are getting hired out there.”