Back to Work: The Case for Public Job Creation in Ohio
March 7th, 2011
Federal public work programs pulled families out of hardship and the economy out of the Depression in the 1930s, and it could do the same today. As Ohio closes in on a second year unemployment rates that have hovered around ten percent, a trickle-up, job-led recovery strategy makes sense from a fiscal and social point of view.
The costs of lingering high unemployment are amplified by lost value of foreclosed homes and bankrupt business, stress on unemployed workers and families, and ongoing erosion of the local and national economy. In Ohio, nearly one out of five workers is unemployed, underemployed, or too discouraged to look for work. Some demographic groups – men who worked in construction and manufacturing, young workers under 24, people without a high school degree or post-secondary education, African Americans and Hispanics – are bearing the brunt of the problem.
People want to get back to work. The federal government needs to move swiftly and decisively to staunch the damage and respond to the urgent need for jobs. An investment of $46.4 billion federal dollars, smaller than the proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and further reduced to $28.6 billion from reduced outlays and increased tax revenues, could create a million jobs very quickly, boosting business and restoring home values through earned income. This kind of stimulus trickles up through the economy. It leaves families and communities served better off.
In this report, Policy Matters Ohio examines the high costs of lingering unemployment. Labor market conditions in Ohio are reviewed. Public works programs from the past are reviewed. Recommendations for public works jobs are outlined. A sketch of the administrative structure of a public works program is provided.