Progress

U.S. Labor Department figures showed Ohio ranked second in the country last month in terms of the raw number of jobs gained, 16,700. That is great news at first look. But upon closer inspection, the percentage growth does a better job of telling the full story. Between December 2013 and January 2014, Ohio’s job growth rate was 0.03 percent. Even the year-over-year percentage is a bit of a reality check. Ohio’s job-growth during 2013 was 1.16 percent. The U.S. job-growth rate for 2013 was 2.06 percent.

Growth is good. Clearly, Ohio is moving in the right direction. But, as economic research analyst George Zeller pointed out, “We needed some robust growth, because we have such a deep hole to dig ourselves out of to make up for the jobs we have already lost (since the recession).”

According to Zeller, Ohio is still 152,600 short of its 2007 jobs level.

Fortunately, Gov. John Kasich appears to understand the need for measured celebration of last month’s growth.

“There’s still a lot more work to do,” his press secretary, Rob Nichols, said.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says the unemployment rate in Ohio is down, at 6.9 percent. That is still a shade higher than the U.S. unemployment rate for January, which was at 6.6 percent. On a national scale, former top Commerce Department official Robert Shapiro says that figure “looks to me like a pause,” as opposed to the speedier growth that was promised from Washington, D.C.

Ohio cannot afford to pause. Whatever measures have contributed to this upward movement appear to be serving their purpose, but that should not mean state lawmakers take a break. The mix of good and bad news from January’s jobs report must inspire officials to double their efforts in pulling Ohio out of the hole from which it has been forced to climb over the past six years.