At height of expansion, Ohio workers not thriving
Posted September 01, 2019 in Press Releases
The economic expansion begun in June 2009 has stretched for more than 121 months, making it the longest in history. For most Ohioans, however, benefits are proving elusive, according to the State of Working Ohio, 2019: Realities and Remedies, a report from Policy Matters Ohio. While unemployment is extremely low at the state and national level, Ohio job growth has stalled, Ohio labor force participation is lower than it has ever been, and Ohio wages have not caught up to previous peaks.
“Ohio’s economy is increasingly not delivering for working families, even in what should be the best point in the business cycle,” said Amy Hanauer, report author and executive director of Policy Matters. “Inequality is way up, wages lag the nation’s and are below previous peaks, and, despite great unemployment rates, a record share of men have left the labor market.”
The report also finds that state and federal policymakers have cut taxes for the wealthiest, leaving communities with insufficient resources to invest in the next generation, treat addiction, and address effects of climate change like floods and lake pollution. Additional findings include:
Wage troubles: Median wages have been edging up since 2011, but Ohio wages remain behind U.S. wages (an $1,100 annual deficit) and behind Ohio’s 1979 median. Nine of Ohio’s 10 most common jobs pay under $36,000 a year, too little for a family of three to afford food without aid. With full-time work, women still earn nearly $7,000 less a year than men and black Ohioans earn over $10,000 less a year than white Ohioans at the median. Black workers earn far less than they did in 1979 – $4,742 less a year adjusted for inflation – and the gap has worsened.
Employment paradox: Ohio’s unemployment rate – 4.5% for 2018 and 4% in June and July 2019, is almost as good as it gets (2001’s annual rate was 4%). But Ohio has never had such a large share of men who are not working and no longer looking for work and the share of women working or seeking work is also below previous peaks.
Slowing job growth: Ohio lost 9,000 jobs from January to July 2019 (preliminary). The state remains 28,000 jobs below levels in early 2000. Ohio lost 5,700 public sector jobs since January 2017 and manufacturing job growth weakened substantially in 2019.
Unions help: The typical union member earns over $10,000 more a year than the typical non-union worker. Unions hike wages for people of all races and genders – while most Ohio union members are white, black Ohioans are more likely to be in a union than white Ohioans.
The report provides remedies. “Ohio policymakers can support workers by raising the minimum wage, enforcing labor law and encouraging unionization. They should also fix Ohio’s upside down tax code, which increases inequality. Finally, let’s use that revenue on people and infrastructure, especially in ways that mitigate climate change, educate our kids and create good jobs,” Hanauer said. “We can choose an economy where every job is family-supporting. We can choose less polluting approaches to transportation and energy. It’s up to us.”