This Ohio City Has the Highest Unemployment Rate In The State

The diner hummed with the quiet chatter of regulars, a stark contrast to the emptiness in Sarah’s eyes. A single mother of two, Sarah had been laid off from the local factory six months ago. The closure, a result of outsourcing, left a gaping hole in her life and the lives of many others in Meigs County, Ohio.

Meigs County, nestled along the Ohio River, now holds the unwelcome title of having the highest unemployment rate in the state. Once a bustling center of manufacturing, the county now grapples with the harsh realities of a changing economy.

Historically, Meigs County thrived on manufacturing. Steel mills and factories provided generations of residents with stable, well-paying jobs. However, globalization and automation chipped away at these industries, leading to factory closures and mass layoffs. The national unemployment rate currently sits at a low 3.8%, highlighting the severity of Meigs County’s struggle at a staggering 12.5%.

This staggering figure translates to a significant portion of the workforce struggling to find work. The ripple effects of unemployment are felt throughout the community. Families are forced to cut back on essentials, small businesses face dwindling customers, and a sense of despair hangs heavy in the air.

Life in Meigs County

John, who runs the local hardware store, paints a grim picture. “People just don’t have the same disposable income anymore,” he sighs. “Fewer customers are coming in, and they’re buying less when they do.” The impact goes beyond just finances. Sarah, our resident from the diner, admits to struggling with anxiety and depression since losing her job. “It’s not just about the money,” she confides, “it’s about feeling useless, like I can’t provide for my family.”

The story of Sarah and John is a microcosm of the larger struggle playing out in Meigs County. The lack of job opportunities creates a vicious cycle, draining the economic lifeblood of the community and impacting the well-being of its residents.

Causes of High Unemployment

The decline of manufacturing is the primary culprit behind Meigs County’s high unemployment rate. Globalization led to factories moving overseas in search of cheaper labor, while automation replaced human workers with machines.

The hulking shell of the now-defunct East Ohio Steel Mill stands as a stark reminder of the industry’s decline. Hundreds of jobs were lost when the mill shut down, leaving a significant scar on the local economy.

Beyond industry decline, a skills gap between the workforce and available jobs is another contributing factor. Many of the manufacturing jobs that once existed required specialized skills that are no longer in high demand.

The current job market in Meigs County is dominated by service-sector positions, often in retail, healthcare, and hospitality. These jobs typically offer lower wages and fewer benefits compared to the manufacturing jobs that have disappeared.

Potential Solutions

There’s a glimmer of hope amidst the challenges. Local, state, and federal governments are working together to attract new businesses to Meigs County. Tax breaks and other incentives are being offered to entice companies to set up shop in the area.

Initiatives are also underway to address the skills gap. Community colleges and vocational schools are developing programs to train residents for jobs in high-demand fields like healthcare, information technology, and renewable energy.

The story of Tom, a former factory worker who completed a coding bootcamp and now works as a web developer, is a testament to the success of these programs. However, the challenge lies in scaling up these programs to address the needs of the wider community.

Another potential solution lies in fostering entrepreneurship. Supporting local businesses can create new jobs and help revitalize the local economy. Initiatives like small business incubators and loan programs can provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the resources they need to get started.

The debate between encouraging out-migration, where residents move to areas with more job opportunities, and local economic revitalization is complex. While out-migration can offer faster relief for individuals struggling to find work, the long-term goal should be to create a sustainable and vibrant economy within Meigs County itself.


The struggle for jobs in Meigs County is a human story with real consequences. The weight of unemployment is borne not just in statistics, but in the daily lives of people like Sarah and John.

However, there’s a spirit of resilience in Meigs County. Ongoing efforts to attract new businesses, train the workforce, and support entrepreneurs offer a path forward. The road to recovery will be long, but with continued support and a collective will, Meigs County can emerge from this struggle stronger and more diversified than before.

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MBS Staff
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