WARREN - Amid concerns about weakening recent weeks in the nation's job market, the area's unemployment rate continued to improve in April, gradually setting a more stable economic foundation in home and vehicle sales.
"I have several doctors' offices who have called for medical assistants, both clinical, including phlebotomy (drawing blood) and office workers," said Diana Moss, health care coordinator at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion.
Vicki Thompson, the school's adult education director, said the school is seeing demand for everyone "from high school graduates to people in their 60s. It had been real slow, but (employers) are starting to call again. The trend is upward, especially in manufacturing."
Tribune Chronicle / Larry Ringler
Jan Reid II of Warren, right, marks a light fixture opening while Jayce Bonifacio of Warren measures in a training house assembled by building trades workers at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion.
Thompson said companies in the past often would take experienced workers from other businesses. But with workers retiring at a more rapid rate, companies are facing a shortage of trained employees and are turning to schools like TCTC to fill the gap.
She said the school earlier in June signed a "gigantic pact" with General Motors Co. Lordstown Complex to train workers. Two other companies want to send six to eight students into a training program.
Demand also is increasing for welding, construction and other skilled trades, partly driven by job growth in the oil and gas shale drilling companies moving into the area to tap the Utica Shale.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, late last week announced the U.S. Department of Labor is providing $6 million to train workers in the Mahoning Valley and Shenango Valley of western Pennsylvania to counter an "acute and critical" manufacturing skills shortage of trained workers for shale and other manufacturing jobs.
Jobs are acknowledged as the first step in an economic recovery, since a steady paycheck translates into house, vehicle and other purchases.
Trumbull County home sales in April presented a mixed bag, with unit sales falling to 130 from 137 a year ago, but the median price rising to $64,050 from $62,900.
April new-vehicle sales showed some small gain to 2,150 from 2,083 in the same month of 2011.
Sales tax receipts for February, which Trumbull County received from the state in May, rose 10.8 percent from the year-ago period to $1.85 million, by far the best February since the recession started.
It all stems from a steady reduction of the area's jobless numbers, though with a note of caution.
Warren's unemployment rate in April dipped to 8.7 percent, its second straight month under 9 percent and lowest since 8.6 percent in October 2008 as the Great Recession was starting to be felt. Trumbull County's rate dropped to 7.6 percent, best since the same number in October 2008.
However, a big part of the percentage drop is people have given up looking for work during years of recession.
Warren's labor pool shrank to 17,500, with 1,500 unemployed, in April compared to 19,400 available workers and 1,700 jobless in October 2008.
The work force in the latest county rate was 100,000, with 7,600 people unemployed, compared to a labor pool of 105,100 and 8,000 unemployed in October 2008.
Some training courses continue to grow.
Moss said the training and career center has been able to place students training in drawing blood with the American Red Cross. Pharmacy technicians also are in demand.
She added nursing homes and other caregivers "are crying for" state tested nursing assistants, or STNAs, who provide bathing, dressing, feeding, grocery shopping and other direct patient care.
The school is seeking registrants for a class starting in July that will offer a Health Care Associate program, which follows STNA training.
Students at 200 percent or below of poverty level - $22,340 for one person, $30,260 for a two-person household and $46,100 for a family of four - may participate in a lottery through the Compass services program to get financial aid.
Students also can get assistance through local OneStop state offices, prompting Moss to expect more students for fall classes.