Wilmington Works To Combat State’s Highest Jobless Rate.

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The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services recently reported that unemployment rates dropped in 74 of the state’s 88 counties. But in a cluster of counties to the southwest of Columbus, the jobless numbers remain stubbornly high. In Wilmington and Clinton county, one in six adults, or 18-point 7 percent of the workforce is out of work, the highest unemployment rate in the state. WOSU’s Tom Borgerding reports the region is trying to recover from the closing of D-H-L’s air cargo hub and the loss of 8,000 jobs.

“There’s an awful lot of vacant homes and I know that the homeless shelter is full to capacity with families that they have never seen before.”

Susan Holiday is a county extension agent in Wilmington. Her organization is one of five area county extension offices which have combined efforts to combat job losses in Clinton and surrounding counties. Holiday says the so-called five county solution offers workshops on ways to make income from the land, a one stop website for job searches and job postings, computer instructions, and a resource guide. “If it were printed out it’s almost an 80 page directory of resources that are available if not in Clinton County then in very close proximity to Clinton County.” Holiday and Pat Brinkman in neighboring Fayette County say the website and resource guide help link job seekers with employers. But a short trip to Wilmington better reveals the individual losses and anxieties of a community trying to recover from a major economic blow.

Its 8:45 on a Friday morning in Wilmington. Catty-corner from the Clinton County courthouse, 29 year old Terry McClure and 26 year old Amy Ballein sit on the stoop of a faded, yellow, two-story brick apartment building. He’s waiting for a bus to take him to his grass-cutting job. McClure says he found the job after 18 months of unemployment.

“Its gotten really bad, especially since I was a kid. Its changed a lot. (q) Where do you find a job in Wilmington today? Its hard to. There’s no places to find a job. I was kind of fortunate I found one because everyone needs their grass cut, you know what I mean, But that’s about it. Sometimes fast food restaurants will hire but there ain’t nowehere else.” McClure says members of his family lost jobs at D-H-L when it closed and eliminated 8,000 jobs in Wilmington. McClure’s girlfriend, 26 year old Amy Ballein is a former D-H-L worker. She says she often thinks about leaving Wilmington for a better job opportunity.

“I’ve been up to the temp services so many times. They don’t have nothing. If they do its only for like six weeks, six to nine weeks and its, I’m on unemployment still. And I think its ridiculous, really. (q) How long has it been since you lost your job? Its been over a year. I’ve been on unemployment for about a year and four months now.”

Although Ballein and McClure are making do with unemployment checks and part time work to pay living expenses, Ballein says she’s also looking to the future. “I start college here soon just so I can get up out of Wilmington because its that bad. So, I need a good job, a good paying job. This minimum wage just isn’t cutting it.”

Ballein and McClure, both in their mid to late 20s, have so far been able to find a way to cope financially with job losses. Others are forced to make different choices. Holiday says the job market in the Wilmington area is forcing fundamental changes in people’s lives.

“They take jobs that are available and many of those are not paying nearly as well as D-H-L did so that they’re, people are really having to cut back if they can find jobs locally or they’re driving outside the county quite a ways like to Cincinnati or Columbus to get work. It’s a challenging time for them.”

Greene County extension agent, Melanie Hart, says she has noticed another change among many families in the region. More families are living in fewer houses.

“I mean, I think a lot of families are grouping together, children are coming back. More the old style of the home where you have several generations living in the same household that that’s become a necessity.”

Heading out of town on Route 68, I stopped at a community park adjacent to the Wilmington Public Library. 29 year old Amy Walls was at the kids playground with one of her five children. She too has been affected by the D-H-L lay-offs and has an uncertain future.

“We had a thrift store here in Wilmington and we went out of business a couple of years ago because of the D-H-L announcement. Our business kept going down and down and my husband’s not able to find a job. We’re self-employed so, and I’m worried. I’m getting ready to graduate from college and I’m worried that I’m not even going to be able to find a job.” Walls says her husband works concessions when he can but its not enough to fully support the family.

In Wilmington Tom Borgerding WOSU News