United States job data released Friday for November shows the economy added 178,000 jobs, extending the longest streak of total job growth on record, as the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent. Economists across the board called the numbers made public by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics robust.
American businesses have now added 15.6 million jobs since early 2010 with an unemployment rate at its lowest level since August 2007. Other good news is that, based on the broadest measure of underemployment, the U6 rate—the only official measure of underutilization—rate fell for the second month in a row. And few may not realize that average hourly earnings for private employees have increased at an annual rate of 2.7 percent so far in 2016, faster than the pace of inflation.
So what’s the matter with Ohio?
The Ohio job growth rate in October 2016 slowed to 0.91 percent, according to Cleveland-based economic research analyst, George Zeller. “It will be difficult for Ohio to increase its November 2016 job growth rate to the 1.58% USA December figure, so that Ohio might break its current streak of job growth below the USA national average for 3 consecutive months and for 46 of the last 47 months,” Zeller noted in his monthly analysis of BLS job data. Data for Ohio is scheduled for release on December 16, when it will be clearer whether Ohio stops or extends its current negative streak of underperforming the national average.
President Obama called on Congress In his 2013 State of the Union address to raise the Federal minimum wage, which has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009. It’s no surprise that a Republican-controlled has failed to act, but 18 States and the District of Columbia, along with dozens of local government jurisdictions, have raised their minimum wages. It’s also not surprising that Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature wants to prohibit cities like Cleveland from taking matters in their own Home Rule hands by boosting the minimum wage.
A lower unemployment rate is largely the result of another decline of 226,000 in the Civilian Labor Force, not more people looking and finding jobs. A growing concern for analysts like Zeller and others is the shrinking labor force as baby boomers age out of the prime working age range of 25-54 years old. According to the BLS, there are 1.856 million workers in this age range, many of them in Ohio, who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and still want a job.
This phenomena was also noted by Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research and professor of economics at Ball State University in Indiana “The big decline in the unemployment rate was caused not by job creation, but by the loss of 225,000 folks from the labor force,” Hicks said, the Dayton Daily News reported. “More critically, wages dropped by more than a dollar a week. That didn’t erase gains for the year, but it made them significantly more modest.”
Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel’s Fixed Income Capital Markets Group in Chicago, also saw the same data. “When we really look behind the curtain, we see some negative variables,” she said, referring to some 226,000 Americans abandoning active job searches. “That’s a lot of Americans dropping out. And that’s on the heels of the October report, that showed another 200,000 Americans dropping out.” The continued decline in the unemployment rate, she said, “is due to the fact that Americans have stopped looking for work.”
Zeller is among the few job economic analysts who believe that job growth isn’t just about private sector jobs but also public sector jobs. While he believes that economic growth in the state is weak and that state government is not doing enough to create more jobs, reducing government jobs is the absolute wrong way to go, but that notion runs contrary to the mindset of Gov. John Kasich and Republican lawmakers in Columbus who want to constrain if not reduce the size of state and local government. Accordingly, Zeller says the reduced amounts the state gives to local governments have led to the loss of local government jobs, which continue to prevent Ohio from meeting or exceeding the national job growth average.
When John Kasich became governor in 2011, Ohio was on the road to recovery, lowering its high unemployment rate of 10.5 to about nine percent. In Gov. Kasich’s first budget, he withheld billions of once shared revenue with local governments and schools, which since then have either had to reduce services or increase local taxes to make up for what Kasich didn’t give them, socking it away in Ohio’s emergency or s0-called “rainy day” fund. Like other states but not to the same degree, Ohio has mostly recovered from the Great Recession if 2008.
Stubbornly, Gov. Kasich continues to stash funds in the emergency fund that could be returned to local entities to create jobs. While Gov. Kasich has turned a deaf ear to using small amounts of the billions he sequestered in the emergency fund to help better address the state’s opioid crisis, now the worst in the nation, mostly Democratic lawmakers have asked him to do more than give lip service to an issue that’s killing eight Ohioans every day. By withholding local funds as he has, the pro-growth governor who loves talking about talking to CEOs is actually hurting his own PR since his actions contribute to Ohio’s too slow job growth rate.