Columbus props up Ohio’s jobs recovery

Columbus Dispatch


The sluggish jobs recovery in Ohio would look a lot worse if it weren’t for Columbus.

While most of the state’s metropolitan areas have struggled to regain even half the jobs they lost in the recession, Columbus is the only region to recover all the jobs it lost and add more, according to a Dispatch review of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

According to that review, the Youngstown-Warren metro area has regained only 38 percent or 7,800 of the 20,300 jobs it lost during the recent recession.

Except for Akron and Canton, no other metro area in the state is even halfway back to employment levels that existed before the recession, the data show. The same goes for the state, which has gotten back 42 percent of the jobs lost.

An IHS Global Insight forecast predicts Ohio won’t recover the rest of the 420,000 jobs it lost until the end of 2016, a slower recovery than in all but a few other states.

Columbus is “doing unquestionably better than” any other region in the state, said economist Bill LaFayette, owner of economic-consulting firm Regionomics.

For the analysis, the Dispatch looked at the number of jobs in each of Ohio’s 13 metro regions when the recession began in December 2007, the number of jobs each lost and the number of jobs added since the economy began to improve.

The recession officially ended in June 2009. Most metro areas continued to lose jobs through the end of that year and into early 2010.

Columbus lost 48,700 jobs between December 2007 and December 2009. It has since added 54,800 jobs, a gain of 113 percent.

The next best metro areas are Canton, which has recovered 63 percent of the jobs it lost, and Akron, which has recovered 57 percent.

Meanwhile, Cleveland has recovered 42 percent of the 82,600 jobs it lost during the recession and Cincinnati has regained about a third of the 73,500 jobs it lost. The Cincinnati metro area includes parts of Kentucky and Indiana.

Several smaller metro areas, including Mansfield, Steubenville and Lima, have barely shown job growth since the recession ended.

The fact that Columbus has outperformed the other metro regions doesn’t come as a surprise to Karl Kuykendall, an IHS economist. “Over the last few decades, Columbus has been the top performing metro in the state,” Kuykendall said.

He pegs Columbus’ success to its economic diversity compared with other regions, which are more heavily dependent on the manufacturing sector that was battered during the recession. Also, Honda operations in central Ohio held up better during the recession than the Ohio operations of the U.S. automakers, he said.

“The recession in Columbus wasn’t as bad as other areas of the state,” he said.

Kuykendall is right. While central Ohio lost 5.2 percent of its jobs during the recession, many of the other metro areas lost 7 or 8 percent.

The job gains in central Ohio helped push the region’s unemployment rate down to a state-low 5.7 percent last month. The next-lowest rate among the metropolitan regions was Akron’s at 6.4 percent. In the Youngstown metro area, April unemployment was 7.6 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Mark Patton, a managing director for JobsOhio, the state’s private economic-development agency, gives the Columbus region credit for having those strong public-private ties that have helped the region to grow.

“That’s very unique,” he said. “That’s not happening in other places.”

LaFayette and other analysts said economic growth throughout the state needs to be stronger, and that will help drive job gains.

LaFayette said the statistics suggest “that there’s a need to figure out what’s going right here and what’s not going right in other places.”

“The recovery is uneven. It’s not treating everyone the same,” said Keith Hall, a former Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner who is a senior research fellow at George Mason University in Virginia.

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