2018 was one of the best economic years for America in decades. The coup de grâce came in December with a jobs report that shattered the most generous expectations by more than double. 312,000 new jobs were added to the US economy. While unemployment rose slightly, this was primarily due to more people getting back into the job market after giving up hope of finding work.
In total, more than 2.6 million jobs were added in 2018; the fastest job growth in decades.
So how did Ohio fare? Not great.
Ohio undoubtedly had some noteworthy achievements. 2018 was Ohio’s ninth consecutive year of record-breaking new business filings with 125,000 new businesses created. In July, Ohio’s jobs growth pace actually exceeded the national pace. Overall, Ohio added jobs and employment grew.
Sadly, in some of the most key indicators, Ohio continued to lag behind the nation. In November, while the national unemployment rate rested at 3.7% (its lowest rate in 2018), Ohio’s unemployment rate was 4.6%. Ohio’s best month for unemployment (4.3%) didn’t even beat the nation’s worst month (4.1%). From January to November of 2018, Ohio’s total number of unemployed went from 271,269 to 263,197, a net employment of only 8,072 jobs. While some of this can be explained by more citizens entering the workforce, Ohio is still falling behind. Worse still, some parts of Ohio are falling behind faster than others.
While many counties had positive growth, several suffered tremendously. According to a recent USA Today analysis of the 25 best and worst cities for job growth in 2018, not one Ohio city made the top 25 but three were among the 25 worst; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman (Mahoning Valley), Lima, and Toledo.
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, the geographic center of the Rust Belt and once the largest steel producing region in the world, lost over 3,000 jobs. Their unemployment rate is near 6%.
Lima, the only city in the world that manufactures the M1 Abrams tank, lost 804 jobs and currently has an unemployment rate of 4.4%.
Toledo, the fourth-largest city in Ohio, lost over 5,000 jobs. Their unemployment rate rests at 5.0%.
The manufacturing sector saw some of the greatest job growths in the nation. Even as state tax reforms encourage job growth, the benefits of this industry boom seem to elude the Buckeye State.
A recent report does, however, signal hope for Ohio. Sixty percent of manufacturers in Ohio say that the greatest challenge to their company’s prosperity is not a lack of demand but a lack of skilled workers.
Should incoming Gov. Mike DeWine find a way to close the “Skills Gap,” Ohio could become the country’s manufacturing powerhouse, once again.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].