Census: Fewer Clark County residents living in poverty

6:00 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 Business

Fewer Clark County residents are living below the poverty line over the last five years as the median household income has increased, according U.S. Census Bureau statistics released today.

However, the county still has one of the lowest median household incomes in southwest Ohio.

About 20,400 people in Clark County were living below the poverty level last year, down from about 27,400 people were living below the poverty line five years ago, the survey said.

The median household income in Clark County was about $46,800 last year, up from about $39,000 in 2012, according to inflation-adjusted data collected as part of the annual 2016 American Community Survey estimate. The survey provides details on local income, poverty, health insurance, and population data for communities with population larger than 65,000.

The economy is rebounding and workforce development is becoming even more of a priority here, County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.

Recent major job announcements, including the $55 million Topre America manufacturing plant and the $11 million Silfex plant, will spur other economic activity, Lohnes said. The two companies are expected to bring a total of 500 jobs to Clark County.

Every time a job comes here, especially those with higher wages, other places will have to increase their wages to compete with those highly-skilled workers, he said.

“I think things are a little better here,” Lohnes said. “Things are never perfect, but those numbers are certainly positive.”

However, there’s still work to be done, county commissioners said. The median household income is less than the state of Ohio ($52,300), as well as every other nearby county that was surveyed, including Montgomery ($46,900), Miami ($60,100), Greene ($62,000) and Warren ($80,000).

Clark County’s population has dropped about 1.8 percent over the past five years, falling from about 137,200 in 2012 to 134,700 last year.

Median household income in the United States is up for the second consecutive year, rising to possibly the highest level ever recorded.

The national poverty rate in 2016 was back to a pre-recession level for the first time with 12.7 percent of the population — 40.6 million people — living in poverty. That’s 2.5 million fewer than in 2015.

The median income figure is higher than the pre-recession peak of $58,149 in 2007; however, experts cautioned that the years cannot be accurately compared because the census changed the questions they ask on the annual survey in 2014. At that time, there was a jump of 3.2 percent in median income for those answering the new questions.

County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt has seen an influx of help wanted signs and more economic activity here over the last 12 months, she said.

“These are $18 to $20 dollar an hour jobs for skilled workers,” she said.

Flax Wilt is also encouraged the county is narrowing the gap when it comes to median household income, she said.

“It’s good to see us heading in the right direction,” Flax Wilt said.

The county must work to keep people here, County Commissioner Lowell McGlothin said. Jobs are the key, he said.

“You need a job,” McGlothin said. “If you don’t have a job that you can live on, then you’re going to go elsewhere.”

Multiple agencies, including the Community Improvement Corporation and the Clark County Land Bank, are working to bring more jobs and retail to the community, he said. McGlothin hopes more young people will consider performing training for skilled jobs at the Springfield-Clark Career Technical Center and Clark State Community College.

“I don’t think it’s being utilized enough,” he said. “It’s working, but we need to let people know it’s available.”

Quality of life and culture also play into retaining people, Flax Wilt said. The community must help people who work here but live elsewhere see the benefits of moving to Clark County, she said.

“We need to perceive ourselves as on the up rise and in a place where things are getting better and will continue to get better,” she said. “If we stay on that trajectory, I feel good about where our community’s future lies.”

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