Ohio jobs and income ravaged perhaps more than we know

By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer

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George Zeller studies the Ohio economy — particularly Northeast Ohio.

And the data he examines show the Great Recession that started in late 2007 and officially ended in 2009 especially slammed the state.

The good news is, the high unemployment rates caused by the deep recession’s dramatic and horrifying job losses are now showing improvement. But the Cleveland economic research analyst says the true, darker impact of the Great Recession is still to be unveiled.

Zeller, as part of the American Today project exploring the anger and fear in the community, provided an overview of how the Ohio economy was in distress long before the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, and that it will take many years to restore a feeling of meaningful growth.

“We’ve been losing jobs since 2000,” he said. “2007 to present made it a lot worse.”

Ohio showed job losses each year for more than 10 years starting in 2000, Zeller said. Over that stretch, Ohio lost 527,804 jobs.

“Things are starting to improve,” he said. “We did stop losing jobs last year. But the growth rate is slow, very slow.”

Barely 10 percent of the losses were restored last year with 59,330 new jobs.

The big loss: Wages

People across the state who kept their jobs instead took pay cuts in many cases.

“What was startling was the overall wage loss” starting in 2010, Zeller said. “Some people are doing very well, thank you very much. The bulk are doing worse.”

Wages fell an average of 4 percent per worker, he said. So, someone making $46,321 in 2010 made $44,470 last year, he said. The drop in wages helps explain the widespread unease with the economy even as it recovers, he said.

Multiplied across the entire work force, Ohio’s annualized earnings decline is nearly $6.6 billion, he said. “Wages fell in industry after industry. The exceptions were small in number,” he said.

Summit County income figures from the Census Bureau’s latest available American Community Survey show a significant drop in recent years as well. Black females and white males took the biggest hits in individual income.

The survey shows median individual income, adjusted for inflation, in Summit County from 2007 to 2011:

• For white males, fell from $51,146 to $46,742, a drop of 8.6 percent.

• For black males, fell from $34,376 to $31,637, a drop of 8.0 percent.

• For white females, fell from $38,862 to $36,632, a drop of 5.7 percent.

• For black females, fell from $32,152 to $26,827, a drop of 16.6 percent.

Worse than it looks

Upcoming revisions to the bleak job economic numbers dating back to the Great Recession likely will be revised further downward, Zeller said.

“They were underestimates of how bad it was,” he said. “Even now it is underestimated. So, the economy now is doing worse than what people are saying.”

Politicians have used the preliminary numbers for their decisions involving such things as economic stimulus, Zeller said. Those underestimated figures led to a smaller-than-needed stimulus, he said.

And that in turn led to such things as greater poverty and larger numbers of home foreclosures, he said.

“The worst of it was by the people who lost their jobs,” Zeller said. “It was all industries across the board.”

Federal and state governments have made things worse by cutting aid to communities, which in turn led to a large loss of state, county and local public jobs, he said. For instance, in 2011 Ohio local governments cut 18,616 jobs, he said.

“Instead of speeding the recovery up, we slowed it down with that action,” he said. “We are getting a recovery but it was very slow. People aren’t feeling it.”

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com.

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