LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — It may not seem like it with all the “now hiring” signs out, but the local economy is getting better.
Lucas County's unemployment rate is at 6.4% and dropping. Back in July, the county stood at 7.9% but has since dropped as more people are starting to look for jobs again.
Experts say as companies get around to getting through piles of applications, the economy will only get better.
"I think we're seeing more people coming back to the workforce and I think that's a big plus," Lucas County Deputy Director of Planning and Development Mike Veh said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment soared to over 20% in Lucas County. A year and a half later, the economy is slowly returning to pre-COVID-19 levels.
"I think it's more important to look at the number of people coming back into the workforce," Veh said, "because that has been a huge driver from every business trying."
Veh stressed people are flocking to employers who have raised wages to bring in more workers.
"Companies that are increasing their wages to be competitive offering sign-on bonuses," he said, "I've heard sign-on bonuses as high as $5,000."
But even though there are many help wanted signs out and about, some people like 16-year-old Grace Herroon have been searching for months. She's applied to over a dozen places but says her limited hours with school are hurting her and others.
"I've applied to a lot of the places that have the signs out," she said, "and they either just don't get back to me or if I call them, they say we'll get back to you tomorrow and they never get back to you."
Herroon is not alone in waiting. Veh says the worker shortage is actually affecting businesses' ability to find new workers too.
"Businesses are so overwhelmed because they're short workers that they don't have the staff or the time to go through the applications to fill the positions so it takes longer," he said.
Veh also said many people who were working two jobs before the pandemic have settled for one that pays more now with rising wages and that has led to fewer workers for some places.
But he stressed those who stopped looking for jobs a year ago are coming back and that's a good sign for the local economy.