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Our economic recovery need not be sluggish

Mahoning Valley residents know the jobs landscape in our communities is not what it once was. This is a long-term trend, only punctuated by the heavy blows of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, the changes of the past few decades, let alone the last couple of years, will mean employment will never again look as it did in, for example, the 1970s. Plenty of us are going to have to get used to the idea, though it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Employers may be new and different, “work” may not always mean a commute, and the education and training required for those jobs may not be quite what we are used to. But jobs are returning to Ohio, if slowly.

According to Policy Matters Ohio, numbers from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services show the possibility that the number of jobs lost during the pandemic may recover by 2023.

In fact, the Buckeye State’s job recovery is 75 percent as fast as the national average, a little lower than the rest, but still, the progress is encouraging.

So, where are the sectors in which jobs are already fully recovered? Transportation, warehousing and utilities; retail; construction; and, it shouldn’t be a surprise, federal government employees are now back at full strength. Wonderful.

But perhaps more importantly, the sectors in which shortfalls have been what Policy Matters Ohio called “persistent” are educational and health services; health care and social services; and “public sector” (local and state government). Ohioans, particularly in our little corner, cannot ignore that some of those losses are a result of population loss as a whole. We do not need as many teachers (or schools, for that matter) if there are fewer children to teach.

Just as important to note is the think tank’s analysis that even the recovery we have experienced is very much the result of fiscal stimulus money. That means it is time to shift forward our thinking about employment in Ohio. Policymakers have a responsibility to be honest in addressing the real reasons for population loss, and whether we are clinging to industries and ideas about employment that no longer suit the needs of Buckeye State residents.

We all know Ohio is a fantastic place to live and work. Rather than being content to wait for a sluggish recovery to bring us in a couple of years back to where we once stood, let’s start today working toward that bright, prosperous future we need only to decide to embrace.

editorial@vindy.com

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