Ohio jobs: Those with the most openings pay the least

Nearly half of the 25 jobs projected to have the most annual openings in Ohio through 2028 pay less than $15 hourly, which some economists worry could have a negative impact on the state’s economy.

The four types of jobs projected to have the most openings are combined food preparation and service workers, including fast food; cashiers; retail salespersons and waiters/waitresses. All have median hourly pay under $12, according to data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

“There is some broad economic concern over stagnant wage growth, particularly at the bottom end of the distribution, which has implications for growing inequality and reduced economic mobility,” said Nancy Haskell, assistant professor of economics at the University of Dayton.

Credit: Larry Burgess

Credit: Larry Burgess

“Having more high paying job openings would certainly benefit workers and be associated with economic growth in the state,” Haskell said.

The job opening projections for 2018-2028, and the U.S. median hourly wages for those occupations in 2019, were released earlier this year.

The data for the 25 occupations with the highest number of annual job openings show median wages ranging from $9.59 an hour for waiters and waitresses to $31.81 for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers.

Among the top 25 those paying less than a median of $15 hourly are expected to add 166,668 jobs annually and those paying more than that will add 97,971 jobs annually in the state, according to an analysis of the data.

Some of the higher-paying jobs pay substantially more. Registered nurses ranked second in pay at $31.63 an hour and are expected to see 8,357 annual job openings.

“There is always a need for nursing staff,” said Sarah Hackenbracht, president and CEO of the Greater Dayton Hospital Association. “There is particularly a need for critical care nurses. But particularly due to COVID we are seeing a need for emergency room staff, specifically nurses.”

Credit: Will Jones

Credit: Will Jones

Nationally, employment in healthcare occupations is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is much faster than the average for all occupations and the growth is attributed to the aging population, which will lead to more demand for healthcare services, according to the BLS.

There is wide variation in pay for those jobs.

The annual median pay for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations, such as registered nurses, physicians, surgeons and dental hygienists was $68,190 in May 2019, according to the BLS.

But pay was much lower for healthcare support occupations, like home health aides, occupational therapy assistants or medical transcriptionists. For those jobs the median annual wage was $28,470, according to the BLS.

“The pay disparity relative to growing demand for home health care is an issue that national policymakers are currently thinking about as well,” Haskell said.

Service jobs have the most openings

In the Ohio data the occupation with the most projected annual openings was combined food preparation and service workers, including fast food, which had 31,447 projected openings and an hourly wage of $9.71. Cashiers ranked second at 21,693 jobs and median pay of $10.29.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Annual projections for retail salesperson jobs ranked third, at 21,610, and had median hourly pay of $11.36. Waiters and waitresses had the fourth most projected openings, at 18,146, according to the data.

“It continues to show a shift to the service economy (in Ohio),” said Rea Hederman, vice president of policy for The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based conservative-leaning think tank.

Child care workers, home health aides, personal care aides and nursing assistants are also among the lowest paid occupations on the state’s list.

“The real consequences beyond individual suffering, which is substantial, the implications for the wider economy is we get slower growth, we get slower recovery, businesses don’t get as much revenue because people don’t have as much money to spend,” said Michael Shields, researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal-leaning think tank.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“In order for the economy as a whole to thrive people need to thrive. People need to have enough income to spend on basic needs.”

Bringing all jobs up to at least a $15 minimum wage would pump $6.1 billion into the state’s economy every year, Shields said.

“Everyone who works for a living deserves a wage that covers the basics and everyone who works deserves a safe workplace,” Shields said.

Some of the lower paid jobs are temporary ones, giving people an opportunity to start a job, learn soft skills and then advance, Hederman said.

“We are strongly against the $15 minimum wage,” Hederman said. He said making businesses pay that wage will drive up business costs and reduce opportunities for people who are starting out.

On Thursday, in response to companies saying they are having trouble filling jobs, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the state will stop giving unemployed workers the extra $300 weekly approved by Congress in March. That money was supposed to last until September but several states are pulling out.

The Buckeye Institute supported DeWine’s decision.

“You want businesses competing against businesses in terms of pay. You don’t want businesses competing against government benefits in terms of pay,” Hederman said. “It’s an extra $300 a week and you are not doing anything to get it.”

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Policy Matters Ohio opposed eliminating the extra money.

“The public policy response to this cannot be to make people so poor and so desperate that they’ll take any job even if it pays so little that they’re living in poverty,” Shields said.

Haskell said a tight labor market would normally drive up wages.

“However, I suspect the job openings will fill more quickly as soon as the added benefits expire and schools fully re-open, resulting in little wage growth among these occupations,” she said.

Increased education boosts pay

One thing that clearly raises pay is getting more education, the state data show.

Median pay ranges from $14.80 per hour for people with less than a high school diploma to $47.08 hourly for someone with a doctoral degree.

There is a big jump in pay for people with a bachelor’s degree, which has a median hourly wage of $31.20, compared to those with a high school diploma, at $18.65.

People with some college but no degree earn a median hourly wage of $20.83, the data show.

Hourly pay and educational attainment  
Level of educationMedian hourly pay
Doctoral degree$47.08
Professional degree$46.53
Master's degree$37.43
Bachelor's degree$31.20
Associate's degree$22.18
Some college, no degree$20.83
High school diploma$18.65
Less than high school diploma$14.80
All workers$24.23
*Full-time wage and salary workers in the U.S. in 2019, the most recent wage data available. 
Source: Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

Business and education leaders in Ohio have increasingly focused on pushing non-degree options, including certifications and other industry-approved credentials, as an alternative to college.

There also is a strong push for people to take advantage of the state’s community colleges, which offer both degree and non-degree credentials.

Ohio students can start in a two-year program and go on to earn a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university, an option at all public colleges and increasingly in public-private partnerships such as the one between Sinclair Community College and the University of Dayton, said Randy Gardner, chancellor of Ohio’s department of higher education.

“What we need to do is provide as many opportunities to fit the needs of the workforce today, all the while not pigeonholing students into one track,” Gardner said.

Chad Bridgman, director of work-based learning at Sinclair, said companies are looking to fill the pipeline to replace retiring workers. Sinclair students can work as apprentices or interns at companies, with a goal of getting a job after college. The college’s workforce development program provides training and credentials to people who are already working.

“We are getting better and better at recognizing what we need and focusing adults and students on the pathways that need to be filled,” said Cassie Barlow, president of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education.

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