Job fair a needed service

Each year for more than a decade, public and private entities have joined together to give area residents a chance to find a job. We believe this is a worthwhile public service and one that should continue in the future.

The 11th annual Belmont County Job Fair was held Wednesday at the Ohio Valley Mall. Organizers’ goal was to bring job seekers and employers together. A wide variety of employers — from food service establishments to transportation providers, trucking companies and companies in the oil and gas industry — took part. Mike Schlanz of Ohio Means Jobs said 115-118 employers were represented, including some that had never been involved before. He said 106 businesses took part last year.

The presence of so many companies seeking potential employees also drew hundreds of people who were looking for a job, or perhaps looking for a better job. Many of those companies were looking to hire commercial truck drivers, a position that requires a special license. Others were seeking general laborers, technicians, office workers and marketing professionals.

The unemployment rate in Ohio stood at 5.1 percent in February, the latest month for which statistics are available. That figure shows considerable improvement over the unemployment rate in 2010, which stood at 10.8 percent. It also places the state at 38th in the nation for unemployment, with West Virginia ranking 41st.

Ohio’s statewide rate, however, does not paint a clear picture of the situation in the local region. In our part of Eastern Ohio, Harrison County had the best unemployment rate in February at 8 percent. In Belmont County, the rate stood at 8.4 percent; in Jefferson, 8.9 percent; and in Monroe, it was a whopping 11.8 percent.

Those numbers reflect recent trends in our area, including mine and retail store closings. Despite the presence of the natural gas and oil industry, many local people need work.

For those reasons, we urge Ohio Means Jobs, Belmont County officials and mall management to continue working together each year to offer this important public service.