Ohio, Dayton region see job growth, but recovery is a work in progress



Unemployment rate drops, but there are still fewer people in the workforce than two years ago.

For the first time in about seven years, the Dayton region has seen five consecutive months of job growth, according to new preliminary federal labor data.

Also, Ohio’s unemployment rate last month dropped to the lowest level in 2 1/2 years, and the state saw a small uptick in jobs, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

But research groups on both sides of the political divide agree that Ohio’s economic recovery from the pandemic is going slowly and the state faces workforce challenges.

“Two years after the start of the pandemic, Ohio’s job market is recovering but is far from its pre-pandemic peak,” said Rea Hederman Jr., executive director of the Economic Research Center and vice president of policy at the conservative-leaning Buckeye Institute.

The Dayton metro area added 1,600 new jobs in February, after employers hired 1,700 new workers in the first month of the year, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Local payrolls grew by 0.4% for the second straight month, after increasing by 0.2% in December; 0.6% in November and 0.3% in October.

The Dayton metro area — which consists of Montgomery, Miami and Greene counties — hasn’t had five consecutive months of job growth since early 2015.

Last month, Ohio’s unemployment rate fell to 4.2%, down from 4.3% in January. Ohio’s unemployment rate was 5.8% a year ago.

Ohio’s nonfarm employers added 6,700 jobs last month, which was a 0.1% increase from January, according to preliminary data that will be revised. Employment statewide is up 1.9% from the same month last year.

In the Buckeye State, the industries and sectors that saw the most robust employment growth last month included administrative, support and waste services (a 1.3% increase in jobs); information (+1.2%); transportation, warehousing and utilities (+1%); and arts, entertainment and recreation (+1%).

The biggest employment losers were construction (-1.2%); durable goods manufacturing (-0.2%); and financial activities (-0.2%).

Ohio still has many fewer jobs than it did in February 2020, before COVID public health protections took effect, according to Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal-leaning research group.

Ohio’s job recovery has slowed, and fewer people are working or actively looking for work, the group said.

“The lackluster recovery rate the state has experienced in recent months shows that we are not out of the woods and that policymakers at all levels of government should take action to stimulate the economy by making sure people have enough money to pay the bills, put food on the table and cover the cost of housing,” Michael Shields, a researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, said in a statement earlier this year.

Hederman, with the Buckeye Institute, said too many Ohioans remain sidelined, and about 80,000 fewer workers are participating in the job market.

Ohio’s economy has 174,400 fewer jobs than it did in February 2020, according to labor data.

“To address Ohio’s persistent challenges, policymakers need to encourage more Ohioans to re-enter the job market, encourage existing workers to gain new skills and encourage new workers to make Ohio their home,” he said.

Last month, employment in the Dayton region stood at about 381,700 workers.

That’s 12,800 fewer workers than in February 2020.

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