The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services released the March 2016 employment and unemployment data for Ohio Friday. The bottom line results show that for the 40th straight month, Ohio Gov. John Kasich just can’t get it up to meet the national average.
At the same time Gov. Kasich is spending yet more time out of his home state to campaign for president, in a race where he’s running third behind Ted Cruz in second place and Donald Trump in first place in the Republican primary, his boasting of how good he’s doing at creating jobs back home got T-boned again today with the release of information showing last month’s February 2016 data were revised downward by 2,200 jobs.
According to Ohio’s preeminent economic research analyst, George Zeller, Ohio gained 18,300 jobs in March 2016. “That is the good news,” Mr. Zeller said today via email. “Unfortunately, Ohio lost 4,300 jobs in Manufacturing, which is the bad news.” Based in Cleveland, which recent reports show is the “most distressed” city in the nation, Ohio’s job growth rate for this March was 1.82 percent compared to the national job growth rate for of 1.98 percent.
Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, sees it very differently. Seen through his eyes, Ohio’s poor performance is the fault of President Barack Obama’s regulations. Mr. Rosenberger, who was Mitt Romney’s state director in 2012 when the president won Ohio for the second consecutive time, says Republican leadership, especially the leadership of Gov. John Kasich in Ohio, deserve all the credit.
“The Democrats have chosen to ignore just how much progress Ohio has made since Republicans regained control of the House and John Kasich was elected governor,” Mr. Rosenberger said, according to reports of an event at the statehouse yesterday. Even though Obama is president because Americans elected him twice with more than 50 percent of the popular vote, he doesn’t deserve credit for national numbers. For Speaker Rosenberger, his myopia only sees Republican state leadership is on display. Does it follow, then, that Gov. Kasich has to give credit to individual county leadership for the 417,000 jobs he now takes credit for creating?
Democrats have not ignored Ohio’s problems, as the speaker implies they have. When asked to comment on the same figures, House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, a Dayton Democrat, said that poverty is too high, state infrastructure is crumbling and schools remain underfunded.
“The reality is that too many Ohio families are struggling under tax-shifting policies that benefit the wealthiest Ohioans at the expense of the middle class,” Strahorn said, countering Mr. Rosenberger.
Mr. Zeller’s detailed monthly analysis won’t likely convince Mr. Rosenberger to reality, but for economists and others who do follow the math, today’s results show that March marked the 40th consecutive month when the state’s job growth performance was below the USA national average. At the same time, the estimated unemployment rate for Ohio increased from 5.0 percent in February to 5.1 percent in March. Zeller notes that an increase of 30,000 in the Ohio labor force was key to that rate change, which is now higher than the five percent national rate.
In spite of these worrisome statistics, Mr. Zeller said, “Ohio continues to recover.” But, he cautions, “the recovery is still too slow and is below the national average for the 40th consecutive month.”
Ohio has several fundamental problems that even wizards like John Kasich have no power to control. There’s been a labor market recession on going since 2000, and it’s sizable Zeller tells us. Add to that the fact that Ohio still has to catchup 142,400 jobs to bring it back to former highs a decade ago, the work force problem only magnifies the trouble. “There still is an enormous hole for the state to dig out of,” Zeller said, emphasizing the slow pace jogging of Ohio compared to others.
Leading the disappointing news was the loss of 4,300 lost jobs in manufacturing, the bread and butter industry Ohio was famous for in the 40s,50s and 60s, that in previous months had been driving recession recovery. Mining lost 400 jobs in February, but March year-over-year the total was 21,900 lost jobs, the largest YOY job loss of any Ohio industry. Construction also fell last month by 1,000 jobs. “The loss of jobs in all three key blue collar high wage industries was the main contributor to Ohio’s sub-par job growth rate in March,” Zeller said.
Gov. Kasich has long said that only private sector jobs are important, and routinely prides himself on pointing to state employment as being at its lowest level in decades. For Mr. Zeller and other informed number watchers, government jobs are equally important. More than 700,000 government jobs were lost during the Great Recession, and Ohio could be doing much better if more of those public sector jobs had rebounded. But with Mr. Kasich’s cut of billions to local governments, a strategy he said was done to help them with budgeting, positions have not been filled as locals have had to choose between fewer services or raising their local taxes to compensate for the funds Gov. Kasich withheld to balance Ohio’s state budget.
Government employment increased by 6,900, Zeller says, although Federal Government employment increased by only 100. “At the current rate of recovery, it will take Ohio nearly 8 years to recover the 142,400 jobs that it has lost since 2000,” he said today in prepared remarks.
“Overall, too many Ohio workers still can’t find a job because our rate of recovery is still too slow. It will be important for the United States and Ohio to stop relying only on monetary policy at the Federal Reserve and start providing fiscal policy that will cause improvements in our employment growth rate in Ohio. Thus far, despite advice from the International Monetary Fund that this is what the USA should do, our political situation in the USA and in Ohio have prevented this mandatory policy shift.”