ST. CLAIRSVILLE - As Ohio slowly recovers from its economic hangover, state liquor establishments sold about 11.9 million gallons of spirits for a record sales total of $849 million during 2012.
"Strong wholesale indicates positive growths in Ohio's economy as Ohioans are again patronizing restaurants and entertainment businesses," said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.
At the same time, Ohio's jobless rate now stands at 6.7 percent, or 1.1 percent lower than it was in December 2011. Locally, however, unemployment rates in Jefferson and Monroe counties continue to hover near the 10 percent mark.
Sales of spirituous liquor reached a record level in Ohio during 2012, totaling $849 million and 11.9 million gallons.
Sales of vodka, whiskey, gin, rum and other spirits for 2012 were 7 percent higher in Ohio than in 2011. Spirituous liquor is intoxicating liquor containing more than 21 percent alcohol by volume, or higher than 42 proof.
"Consumer tastes are becoming more sophisticated, and Ohioans continue to trade up buying more of the premium products. Better product selection and improved inventory management are key to meeting the needs of our consumers, without encouraging increased consumption," Goodman added.
For the second consecutive year, wholesale dollar sales - liquor purchased by retail permit holders such as restaurants, bars and clubs - showed strong growth. Total wholesale sales in 2012 reached $257.8 million.
The following were the top 10 selling brands of liquor in Ohio for 2012:
As Ohio's bars, clubs, restaurants and state liquor stores continue selling spirits, the state's level of unemployment continues to improve. The number of those looking for jobs but unable to find them in Ohio in December was 388,000, down from 391,000 in November.
The number of unemployed in Ohio dropped by 70,000 from December 2011 to December 2012. Statewide, Ohio added jobs during 2012 in the categories of educational and health services; trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; financial activities; and leisure and hospitality.
The current situation does not seem as positive in eastern Ohio, despite the possibility of future job growth associated with the Utica and Marcellus shale natural gas drilling industries. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services did not have a county-by-county rate breakdown available for December as of Friday.
For November, Jefferson County's unemployment rate stood at 9.9 percent. During 2012, the county saw the former RG Steel plants at Mingo Junction and Steubenville liquidated, with demolition of the latter fully under way. The county also saw the closure of the Murray Energy Corp. Red Bird West mine near Brilliant during the year.
In Monroe County, the November jobless rate stood at 9.8 percent. The county's largest private employer, Ormet Corp., laid off employees during 2012 as it shut down two of its six potlines.
In November, the unemployment rate for Belmont County - home to the Ohio Valley Mall and Plaza - stood at 6.9 percent. Harrison County's jobless number checked in at 7.5 percent.
Pike County, in southern Ohio, had the highest jobless rate in the state at 11.9 percent. Mercer County, on the state's western edge bordering Indiana, had the lowest percentage of Ohioans looking for work at 3.9 percent.