Jobs Shift Slams Ohio Workers
Posted September 03, 2011 in Press Releases
The shift from manufacturing and construction to more knowledge-based
industries has been one of the key stumbling blocks to income growth in Ohio, where
median wages have declined faster than any other state over the past 10 years, according to
a recent report from Policy Matters Ohio.
Many Ohio workers have been consigned to low-paying jobs with little potential for
advancement because they don’t have the education or training to fill the positions that have
replaced production jobs, said Bill Even, a labor economist at Miami University.
He noted that while about 26 percent of Ohioans hold at least a bachelor’s degree, the
national average is closer to 30 percent. And government statistics show a wage gap of more
than $20,000 in median household income between workers with at least a bachelor’s
degree and workers with only a high school diploma.
“We’re seeing wages in the types of jobs that require a high school degree not keeping pace
with wages in jobs that require a college degree. And Ohio, on average, has a less-educated
work force,” Even said. “We’re also finding that a lot of young people who get college
degrees are leaving the state, and that has also hurt us in terms of wages relative to the rest
of the country.”
Nationally, median hourly wages rose 51 cents over the past decade to $16 last year, Policy
Matters reports. At the same time, Ohio’s median hourly wage fell by 86 cents to $15.16 in
Even attributed much of the decline to the dramatic shift in the nature of employment in
Ohio, now focusing more on high-tech and green technology than manufacturing.
That’s a big change from 20 or 30 years ago, he said, when high-paying manufacturing and
construction jobs where the backbone of the economy and employers were forced to raise
wages to compete for workers.
“In Ohio, for many years, a person with a high school degree could do quite well in the
manufacturing industry,” Even said. “That’s not working anymore.”
As plants shut down in the wake of recessions in the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s, those jobs
disappeared and many laid-off factory workers were forced to take entry-level jobs, if they
could find work at all.
“Ohio historically has been a state that has a larger-than-average share of its work force in
manufacturing,” Even said. “So as the manufacturing industry in the U.S. has been
declining, it’s hit Ohio harder than many other states.”
The decline in manufacturing and construction jobs has also taken its toll on workforce
participation in Ohio