MARIETTA - Washington County's unemployment rate has been steady at 6.1 percent for the past three months, and county officials are offering several reasons for this positive "downturn."
"You can't stay at 6.1 percent and not do something right," said Candy Nelson, supervisor at Job and Family Services in Washington County.
The highest unemployment reported during the economic downturn was 11.5 percent in January 2010. In January 2012, the rate was 9.1 percent; one year earlier it was 10.4 percent.
Nelson cited the efforts of employers countywide.
"I think our employers are very good. They're trying to add people back when they can, " she said.
The county's biggest employers see the benefits of operating their businesses in Washington County, said Washington County Commissioner Cora Marshall.
By the Numbers
Civilian labor force estimates for Washington County:
Washington County's current unemployment rate is the lowest since it was at 5.6 percent in November 2008.
In the months of July, August and September, Washington County unemployment was at 6.1 percent.
The highest unemployment reported during the economic downturn was 11.5 percent in January 2010.
"Washington County is blessed to have large employers here that believe in our area and believe in our workforce," she said.
Growth in employment has been a result of diversity, according to Terry Tamburini, executive director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority.
"The traditional industries that we have stayed stable (including) polymer, health care and finance," he said.
Tamburini also cited the retention of about 600 Eramet jobs and the expansion of the Memorial Health System in Belpre.
"Their expansion into the Belpre area has been great and that's going to continue unabated, it looks like," he added.
Marietta Memorial Hospital has also kept building and growing because "there's a demand here for service," said Marshall.
Thermo Scientific and Kraton have recently made major investments in their facilities, she added.
Tamburini also pointed to the impact made by West Virginia businesses.
"Being realistic, a lot of good things in Washington County are somewhat dependent on our neighbors across the river," he said.
"Public Debt is a stable hire. People aspire to work there," Tamburini added, noting that the DuPont facility has also hired over the past year or so.
The boom in the shale industry has boosted area job growth, said Tamburini.
"The shale industry has had a dramatic impact," he added.
Tanks are manufactured in Waterford Township, Miller Pipe in Reno focuses on pipeline storage and Warren Township's Pioneer Group manufactures heavy equipment used by the industry, he reported.
Many recent jobs have also been in the bio tech field, including businesses like Thermo Scientific, Cool Containers, Farrar Scientific, Caron Products, Grimm Scientific Industries and El Pro Services, Tamburini said.
The recent uptick in employment has not been in "high paying jobs," said Nelson. However, she has seen a recent job opening for a diesel mechanic and two openings at the county courthouse which would earn higher than average salaries.
According to Marshall, other factors that account for countywide job growth include a trained workforce, thanks to local colleges and the Washington County Career Center; job seekers' access to jobs via the Internet; and more residents buying local which results in increased hiring in the retail sector.
"People help support local retailers and in turn they hire. It's a win-win, creating jobs and helping the county with more sales tax," she added.
Marshall, Tamburini and Nelson were hopeful about future job reports.
"We're very optimistic about the future," Nelson said.
Tamburini was in agreement-to a lesser extent.
"We're cautiously optimistic that (future job numbers) are going to be positive," he said.
Tamburini pointed to the possibility of continued job growth in the construction industry as housing needs increase and an uptick in retail jobs due to increased sales of durable goods.
"If things go well with the Utica and Marcellus (shale exploration), there's nothing but positives there," he added.
Shale's impact on future hires was also mirrored by Marshall.
"We have shale development on the horizon. That will mean more jobs for us," she said.