Springfield area jobs could return to their pre-recession peak as soon as the end of this month, according to a report released Friday afternoon by the United States Conference of Mayors at their 82nd annual meeting in Dallas.
The report included forecasts covering more than 366 metro areas.
There are signs that Clark County is recovering from the recession, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Hobbs had not seen the report and could not comment on the specific numbers, but said it’s good news if accurate.
“I think it’s great,” Hobbs said. “I haven’t seen the data, but we have had fairly good job growth over the last three years. I knew we were making gains.”
Recent monthly job reports from the state have shown the unemployment rate falling in Clark County.
“The level of activity we’re seeing from the employers in our community with openings is increasing,” Hobbs said.
Meanwhile, the Dayton area will struggle to regain full employment until at least the beginning of the next decade.
Despite recent gains, the local area’s job total through the first three months of the year was still down about 9 percent from its pre-recession peak of more than 399,000 jobs in the first quarter of 2007. And the area is unlikely to close the 35,000-plus jobs deficit until 2020 or later, according to the U.S. Metro Economies report.
By comparison, the Cincinnati metro area is expected to recover the more than 70,000 jobs it lost after its pre-recession peak in the fourth quarter of 2007 by the first quarter next year. Meanwhile, U.S. employment is already back to pre-recession levels, based on preliminary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Economic growth — which drives hiring — is expected to expand in the local area at about 2 percent a year through 2020 — the fastest growth rate in the area since the mid-1990s, according to the report.
Some local economists and development officials are skeptical of the forecast, mainly because it doesn’t account for unforeseen events could change local labor market conditions dramatically.
“I would say you want to take this report with a very large grain of salt,” said James Brock, an economics professor at Miami University. “A lot does change, and a lot will change over the next 10 years. Nobody really has a crystal ball.”
Brock pointed to recent development announcements from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. and Chinese auto glass maker Fuyao Glass Industry Group Co. as evidence that the employment picture can change quickly. The companies plan to establish warehouse and manufacturing operations in the Dayton area, creating nearly 2,000 jobs over the next two years.
“Nobody saw that coming, yet there you have it,” Brock said, adding that Dayton is well positioned for future job growth.
“Dayton is smack at the intersection of two major interstates (I-70 and I-75), and has an advantage in terms of location, transportation, logistics and warehousing,” he said. “Couple that with the fact that lots of companies are starting to bring operations back home to the U.S., and that’s going to increase the importance of logistics and transportation as well as some manufacturing that may come back that went away 10 or 20 years ago.”
In addition, Dayton has made strides in diversifying its economy and is not as reliant on manufacturing as it once was, which should bode well for future job growth, according to Joel Ivers, vice president of the entrepreneurial development arm of The Dayton Development Coalition known as Accelerant.
The group was recently awarded $3 million in matching funds from the Ohio Third Frontier Commission for a seed-stage venture capital fund. The fund is designed to stimulate start-up activity and job growth in the region by investing primarily in Dayton-area technology businesses with high-growth potential.
“We have a lot of start-up hopes for the companies that the Accelerant fund invests in,” Ivers said, noting that his team is planning to invest in 20 to 25 start-ups over the next two to three years.
Most of the companies will start with a handful of employees and may expand to a few dozen once they get off the ground, Ivers added, but those estimates don’t include indirect employment by firms supporting the start-ups.
“There will be lots of indirect jobs, so the employment numbers can get a lot larger than the direct number quickly,” he said. “A decade from now, the numbers could be significant.”