COLUMBUS -- The state unemployment rate in February remained at a steady 7 percent, unchanged from January but below the 7.5 percent reported in February 2012 and well below the national average of 7.7 percent during the second month of this year..
The report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services was in line with unemployment statistics released over the past couple of years -- a state average below the national rate, with Ohioans having success leaving the ranks of the jobless.
It's a trend frequently cited by Gov. John Kasich, lawmakers and others as they tout policy changes implemented over the past two years and new ones proposed for the next biennium.
Front and center in the discussion is JobsOhio, the private nonprofit created by Kasich and Statehouse Republicans to spearhead economic development efforts for the state.
Though facing questions about its use of public funds, JobsOhio officials credit the nonprofit's efforts with helping secure tens of thousands of jobs and billions in capital investment during its first year of operations.
"With our partners, we have begun the process of reshaping Ohio's economic future," John Minor, JobsOhio's chief investment officer, said following the unveiling of the nonprofit's first-ever annual report. "Although much work still lies ahead, we have taken considerable steps forward, we have great prospects and opportunities, and we believe that our success will continue in 2013."
JobsOhio handles the behind-closed-door negotiations with businesses seeking state incentives for new construction or expansions. Those duties formerly were handled by the Ohio Department of Development, renamed in the past year as the Ohio Development Services Agency.
Kasich and other backers believe business executives are more comfortable talking to executives behind closed doors than dealing with the bureaucracy and scrutiny of working with a public development office.
They cite the results of JobsOhio's first year in operation as proof that the setup works. The nonprofit reported working with 277 companies that committed to creating nearly 21,000 jobs and retaining another 54,000-plus, with $5.8 billion in new capital investment.
"You know, in the 21st century you must move at the speed of business," Kasich said during his State of the State speech earlier this year. "You cannot move at the speed of the statute. You must be out there every day understanding what the job creators are saying, and JobsOhio has allowed us to think about defining our economy and, in fact, we are."
He added, "... JobsOhio has been able to work to diversify us and it's clearly working. And now that we're funded, we think we're even going to get more out of Jobs Ohio than we've seen so far."