At high noon on Friday, in front of the Capitol in Washington D.C., Donald John Trump was sworn-in as the 45th President of The United States. His inaugural address sounded like standard Trump-rally pablum that repeated his pledge to put American first and bring back jobs.
In Ohio, a bellwether state that has made and broken many a candidate’s run for president, the New York billionaire and real estate Titan decimated Hillary Clinton by a stunning 446,841 votes last year, even though former President Barack Obama twice won the votes of Buckeyes in 2008 and 2012.
Mostly white working class voters who broke for Trump said they felt left behind. And for many of them living in communities or states where economic anxiety was real, voting for change dominated their motivation to go with an unorthodox and unproven political phenomenon like Trump instead of a candidate who represented decades of experience and preparation like Clinton.
Economically Insecure Buckeyes
According to a new report by the Economic Innovation Group, Trump found his voter base in counties that faced higher than average rates of unemployment, job losses and population decline. “As the national labor market made five years of steady progress following the Great Recession, 30 percent of flipped counties endured continued job losses; more than 25 percent lost both jobs and businesses; 60 percent had higher rates of worklessness than the national average; 70 percent suffered population loss and 95 percent saw slower population growth than the country as a whole,” EIG reports in “How Struggling Local Communities Helped Decide The 2016 Election.”
Ohio seems a good match for most of these criteria. New data out on job creation, or loss as the case may be in Ohio, helps explain why Democrats crashed and burned in a state where job creation lags and where workers, by the tens of thousands, are dropping out of the workforce.
Slow Jobs Shrink Workforce
Ohio’s preeminent job’s data analyst sheds more light on Ohio’s plight with incontrovertible evidence showing that Gov. John Kasich just can’t create jobs fast enough, compounding the economic stress and anxiety EIG sees as central to Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again.” In his customary deep dive into monthly job numbers, Cleveland-based economic research analyst George Zeller’s latest report tells a tale of workers dropping out of the workforce, as jobs in durable manufacturing and government slide downward.
“During 2016 Ohio gained only 41,800 jobs, a much slower rate of growth than Ohio needs to recover jobs previously lost in the state,” Mr. Zeller notes. He adds, “This was the smallest annual job growth in Ohio since 2009, when Ohio lost a huge 247,600 jobs as a result of the ‘Great Recession.'”
Zeller’s analysis notes had an increase in jobs in December of 10,300, but even with that, he says “Ohio’s current unchanged job growth rate of 0.63% is below the only very slightly slowing 1.58% USA job growth rate. Thus, Ohio’s December 2016 growth was too slow once again.” Ohio had a net negative change of 12,000 few employed workers in December, Zeller told Plunderbund Friday. Ohio’s labor force went down by 16,000 in June 2016, by 24,000 in July 2016, by 24,000 in August 2016, by 14,000 in September 2016, by 19,000 in October 2016, by 16,000 in November 2016 and by 4,000 in December 2016.
It’s also known that Ohio’s population growth is among the slowest in the nation, and having a net out migration of 58,000 last year didn’t help Gov. Kasich’s claim that Ohio is a “cool” state to live in.
Zeller informs us that “there still is an enormous hole for the state to dig out of. There continues to be an urgent need for Ohio to speed up the rate at which it is recovering from the very deep 2000-2011 Ohio labor market recession.”
EIG’s review of voting based on the economic health of counties shows that urban and rural counties were sharply divided, the starkest it has ever been. Hillary Clinton won nearly every county with over one million people, EIG notes, “places that have become increasingly important as engines of national economic growth.” At the same time, President Trump carried 90 percent of those with under 100,000 people. “These rural counties have undergone a rapid and stunning reversal of fortune over the past three decades as joblessness, business decline, and population losses have become pervasive in many once-stable and prosperous rural areas,” EIG concludes. “Thus, the urban-rural divide implies a starker economic divide than previous election cycles.”
Gov. Kasich tried and lost to become the Republican nominee for president last year. What he did succeed in doing, through his own poor performance on creating jobs that gave large parts of Ohio the blues, was to elect Donald Trump. In many communities, and many Ohio communities under Kasich’s watch over the last six years fit the bill, have had “recoveries that looked more like an ongoing local recession with widespread loss of local businesses,” as EIG put it.
But President Trump has made his promises, and time will tell whether he can keep them or whether his song to “Make America Great Again” was just the kind of red-meat rhetoric that economically insecure people living in distressed communities, of which there are many in Ohio, wanted to hear.