Another Ohio

Akron Beacon Journal - September 2, 2012

This editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal begins with Gov. Kasich’s perspective:

John Kasich loves to tell “Ohio’s story,” a sunny account of a stunning turnaround, the $8 billion deficit erased, the rise from 48th in job creation in 2009 to fourth in the nation today, a rainy day fund that has grown from pennies to $500 million. “The greatest moral issue in America today is job creation,” Kasich told the audience at the Republican National Convention last week.

But, the editorial continues: “The hyperbole aside, there’s no question that it has been and remains a struggle still in Ohio, as elsewhere, to recoup the millions of jobs lost during the recession.”

In that light, “State of Working Ohio 2012,” an annual report by the Cleveland-based think tank Policy Matters Ohio, offers on this Labor Day the darker side of “Ohio’s story.” By the group’s assessment, the state of the labor market in Ohio is better this year than it was in the previous two, but only slightly so. Its sobering conclusion is that “Ohio’s workers have little to celebrate this Labor Day.”

The editorial runs through a summary of some of our key findings:

  • Ohio’s job total has risen by 100,300 in the past 12 months, a 2 percent increase;
  • Manufacturing jobs have grown more than twice as fast as other sectors, at 8.8 percent the past 33 months compared to an overall job growth of 3.6 percent;
  • The unemployment rate continues to fall.
  • The percentages of Ohio workers with high school diplomas and college education have increased.

It concludes:

Unfortunately, the modest gains in job growth, employment figures and education are countered by other realities. Deep cuts in education budgets, for example, threaten the capacity to improve the quality of the labor force. Also, losses in public sector jobs are slowing the recovery. The review estimates that if the cuts in local public jobs had been avoided, some 35,400 more Ohioans would have been employed since June 2009.

Among other grim findings, the report indicates that the share of Ohioans who have been unemployed for at least six months stands at a record level. At 64.1 percent, participation in the labor force last year was the lowest percentage since 1985, males in general, and African-American males in particular, posting the lowest rates. The real wage loss in the state during the 2000s was among the highest in the country.

The Policy Matters review makes clear that for Ohio to celebrate a robust economic recovery, it will need focused efforts not just in creating and expanding the job market — in both the public and private sectors. No less important will be ensuring conditions of work — education, wages, regulations and labor representation — that support a capable and flexible labor force.

Another Ohio
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