As we’ve been reporting recently, Ohio posted an impressive streak of reduced unemployment month-after-month over the last year of Strickland’s tenure. It’s important to show that Ohio’s recovery began before Kasich had any influence over the state’s economy – primarily because the myth of poor performance is being used to justify a radical anti-public agenda, but also because it is an utter certainty that he will try to take credit for any subsequent good news (see permit approvals, comic book heroes, etc.).

But some out there will reasonably complain that the recession and recovery have been global events, and that the global economy had far more to do with unemployment numbers than the actions of individual state governments. What one would like to know is how Ohio did compared to similar states during these events. So, I’ve used Google’s Public Data Explorer to show how Ohio’s numbers have looked compared to those in our bordering states. The upshot? Compared to our neighbors, Ohio has done a good job weathering the recession, and even though recovery has not been consistent throughout the region, unemployment has dropped in every Ohio metro over the last year.

(LOTS of info below the fold, may take a moment to load, but the upside is that each of the graphs is fully interactive, and the “explore data” link will take you to a page where you can change the times, locations, and stats to make your own custom comparisons.)

First: State Level unemployment numbers for the last 5 years, including the last year of the Taft administration in Ohio. 2006 and 2007 show very stable employment numbers. Ohio starts off 2008 in January with better unemployment numbers than Michigan, the same rate as Kentucky, and worse unemployment than West Virginia, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Then things go horribly bad for everybody for a year and a half before leveling off:

As 2009 begins, unemployment is still rising in every state in the region. It’s risen faster in our redder state neighbors, however, and now Indiana and Kentucky now have slightly higher unemployment than Ohio. By January of 2010, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky have leveled off, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are still showing increasing unemployment, but Indiana has bucked the trend and appears to be recovering more quickly than the others (inspiring folks to jump to some conclusions…)

But finally, as we look at 2010, we can see Indiana’s recovery stall, while Kentucky and West Virginia start rising again halfway through the year. The continuing improvement is happening in themore industrial states: Pennsylvania reasserts itself as the lowest unemployment state in this set, Michigan continues to close the gap with the pack, and Ohio steadily and consistently reduces unemployment.

As of Dec. 2010, everyone in the region is running roughly double the unemployment that they were in January of 2008. Nobody has done “well.” But in January of 2008, the average state in the region had 5.1% unemployment, and Ohio had 5.6%, significantly worse. In Dec. 2010, the average state in the region had an unemployment of 9.9%, and Ohio stood at 9.6% – significantly better.

All politics is local, though, right? Things don’t always look the same to people in Butler County as they do in Cuyahoga. the figures below show the three largest metro areas centerd in each of the six states we’ve been looking at (metro-level data is not “seasonally adjusted,” which is part of why it looks spikier than the state data. Because we start and end in January, and these are all regional metropolitan areas, the relative ordering shouldn’t be that affected by the lack of adjustment). Through 2006 and 2007, the orderings are pretty stable: Charleston and Indianapolis have low unemployment, Detroit has high unemployment. Things seem to have started to go downhill in Cleveland earlier than elsewhere in the region, and at the beginning of the recession year of 2008, Cleveland has the second highest unemployment, while Columbus and Cincinnati have the 7th and 10th best out of 18, respectively.

By December of 2010, it becomes obvious that Cleveland and Columbus have actually weathered the recession better than most metro areas in the region – Columbus has moved from 7th to 2nd best employment rate, and Cleveland has gone from 17th to 8th. Once again, both metros have seen significant increases in unemployment, but the increase in metro areas in neighboring states have been much worse. The Cincinnati area has not fared quite as well, falling from 10th to 14th. In fact, the change in the unemployment rate has been almost twice as great in SWO than in NEO (3.5% vs. 1.8%).

So, it’s obvious that the recession and recovery have played out differently across Ohio. Overall, Ohio has done better than its neighbors, and some parts of Ohio – Columbus and Cleveland – have done much better. But if Cincinnati hasn’t fared as well, it’s possible that other areas haven’t, either. Data is available for 10 additional metro areas in Ohio. As 2008 begins, Columbus and Cincinnati not only have lower unemployment than Cleveland, they have lower unemployment than all of the other Ohio Metros. NW Ohio, looking at Toledo and Sandusky, has already started to spike in unemployment (possible spillover from SE Michigan meltdown), everyone else, including Cleveland, is clustered around 6.6% unemployment, give or take .5% .

By the time our most recent data has been released for Dec. 2010, it appears that most of Ohio has followed a similar trajectory, with a couple notable exceptions – Cleveland and Sandusky have weathered the recession better than most, and Steubenville has been rocked hard.

Over the course of 2010, when Ohio has been showing steady month-to-month reductions in unemployment overall, every single one of the metros has shown declines in unemployment, almost all of them more than 2%. Even conservatively moving the starting point back to Dec. 2009 (making the comparison a fairer December to December), all of the metros showed a decline of 1% to 3%, except for the 3 C’s, whose recovery started earlier.

So, to sum up – through the global recession and recovery, Ohio weathered the crisis better than most of its neighbors. Ohio’s largest metro areas outperformed the largest metros in neighboring states, especially Central Ohio, with some of the best numbers in the region. Even though Columbus and Cleveland started bouncing back earlier, the unemployment recovery that was happening all through the last year of Strickland’s term was happening in every area of the state. That’s the standard Kasich has to meet if he wants his agenda to be considered a success.

Best of luck, John.