Base, health care jobs keep wages up

Area wages are still 5% below U.S. average. Loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs has weakened economy.

Dayton’s average hourly wage of $20.74 is 5 percent below the national average of $21.74, according to the annual survey of the Dayton metro area’s employment and wages issued Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau defines the metro area as Montgomery, Miami, Greene and Preble counties.

“Our wages are lower because ... we lost some of those higher wage manufacturing jobs,” said UD’s Richard Stock.

“It’s a combination of that and we do have a lower cost of living,” said Stock, director of the University of Dayton’s Business Research Group.

“We would be in significantly more trouble without the growth we’ve experienced tied to (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) and without the relative stability that we’ve had in the health care sector,” Stock said.

Total area jobs in May 2011 – the period used by the bureau – was approximately 363,000, the bureau said. Stock said local employment has grown since then to about 370,000 jobs.

Area jobs are more highly concentrated in business and finance, computers, math, engineering, health, food preparation and serving, and production than what the bureau found nationwide.

Wright-Patterson is a big reason why the area has so many computer, math, architecture and engineering jobs, Stock said. Together, those fields represent 6 percent of the area’s total jobs, the bureau said.

Another 7.3 percent of all area jobs are in health care, in part because of Ohio’s aging population, Stock said.

Production jobs such as front line supervisors, assemblers and fabricators represent 7.9 percent of all area jobs, despite the loss of nearly 30,000 manufacturing jobs during the past decade, according to labor statistics. The number of area health care jobs has grown to more than 26,000 in the past 10 years with an average hourly wage of $33.83. There are an additional 16,000 health care support jobs, such as home health aides and physical therapy assistants, earning an average hourly wage of $12.47, the bureau said.

Health care jobs are expected to continue to grow locally, said Bryan Bucklew, president and chief executive officer of Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association. “You have an older population that’s living longer and using medical services for a longer period of time. I think that’s the primary reason you’ll see health care employment stay steady and increase in physical therapy, occupation therapy, geriatric, chronic disease management,” he said. “These are high-quality jobs.”

Production jobs in the Dayton area dropped to 28,500 as of May 2011. The average pay for those jobs was $16.97.

Still, area manufacturers are busy and “screaming for employees” with the right skills, said Angelia Erbaugh, president of Dayton Region Manufacturers Association. “That by logic is going to drive wages up.”

The Dayton area has always had many small manufacturers with high-skill jobs, but the big companies with hundreds of low-skill but high-wage jobs won’t come back, Erbaugh said. “With the incredible advancement in technology we just don’t need the same amount of people to produce the same amount of goods,” she said.

“As we’ve lost high-wage manufacturing jobs, it’s not that wages are decreasing in other occupations, but a smaller portion of our average is coming from those higher-wage manufacturing jobs in the auto sector, for example,” Stock said.

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