Economy Up, But Jobs in Ohio Decline

Toledo Blade - December 26, 2003

By Mary-Beth McLaughlin

The end of the recession two years ago did nothing to halt the loss of jobs in Ohio.

The state had 131,000 fewer jobs last month than it did two years earlier when economists say the latest recession ended. Worse, many of those lost jobs were in the high-paying manufacturing sector.

And it appears that the Toledo metropolitan area lost more than 16,000 jobs during that period – the city itself has 8,000 fewer jobs – and even some outlying northwest Ohio counties have taken sizable job hits in the 24-month period since the recession was declared over.

“This recovery has been very disappointing … but I think this is the face of the business cycle of the future,” said James Coons, an economist and principal of J.W. Advisors LLC in Columbus.

“Employers are quick to lay off and scale back production when the downturn comes and they’re very careful about adding to the head count when the turnaround comes.”

Federal Reserve economists have noted, however, that the job recovery from the latest recession has been very different from those of past recessions. As of about two months ago, a Cleveland Fed economics researcher maintained that the economy generally was still experiencing job losses, unheard of in a period so long past the end of any prior recession.

Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio in Cleveland, said, “Ohio is doing as badly as any other state and worse than almost all of them.” Her nonprofit group, which has a pro-labor leaning, blames the Bush administration for not improving the economy.

The majority of jobs lost in Ohio in the last two years, 80,000 of them, were in the manufacturing industry, according to Policy Matters Ohio and the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. Since November, 2000, about four months before federal economists determined the latest recession began, Ohio has lost 176,400 manufacturing jobs, or more than one in six of such positions, Policy Matters Ohio said.

The state has 5.5 million jobs now, government figures show.

The overall state employment figures are compiled from employer payroll figures by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The state agency also conducts a household survey to compile its monthly unemployment figures and generates separate job numbers for the state and its counties, cities, and metropolitan areas. The two surveys do not provide identical job numbers.

Still, state figures show Seneca County had 2,400 fewer jobs last month than it did two years earlier when the recession ended; Huron County had 1,200 fewer; and Williams County had 1,000 fewer. The city of Bowling Green had 900 fewer jobs and Wood County had 3,400 fewer. In most cases, the jobless rate for those places was higher last month than it was two years earlier.

Economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics in suburban Cleveland, said, “This has been a very disappointing recovery by any measure in terms of job generation.”

A lot of companies put major decisions on hold last year until the Iraq situation was sorted out and have been reluctant to hire new people and increase production, he explained.

Still, he said he is optimistic about a strong upturn in the economy and thus that a major labor recovery is coming.

“We just have to add bodies to get the work done to produce all those goods and services,” he said. “We need to add people to payrolls, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see nationwide up to 200,000 jobs per month.”

Other economists disagree, however. Some question whether some of the manufacturing jobs will ever return.

Nationwide, the number of workers employed last month was more than 138.6 million, up 3 percent from November, 2001, when the National Bureau of Economic Research determined the recession officially ended. A few northwest Ohio counties – notably Erie and Sandusky, as well as Henry and Ottawa – also showed some job growth from November two years ago to last month.

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