Seven years after his inaugural State of the State address, Gov. John Kasich is likely to take stock of how Ohio has fared on his watch during his last status report in Westerville Tuesday night.
Ohioans have seen progress on a number of fronts to improve the quality of life and job prospects here, particularly when considering that the Republican entered office in 2011 as the state struggled to rebound from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
But the state’s recovery has been slow — below the national average for job growth — and Ohio ranks low or at mid-pack on other measures as Kasich prepares to address a joint session of the General Assembly at Otterbein University.
The second-term Republican says the speech he initially sketched out over lunch at Tommy’s Diner, west of the Statehouse in Franklinton, will be shorter than usual, as well as “different” and “odd.”
What is not different are the challenges Ohio has faced for years in creating good-paying jobs while boosting both household incomes and the poor out of poverty.
The state gained 54,000 jobs last year, an improvement from the 38,500 created in 2016 (the lowest since 2010), but still a below-average number. Ohio’s job growth of 0.98 percent in 2017 ranked 33rd among the states and markedly below the average 1.5 percent gain nationwide, according to rankings by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Kasich’s administration points out that he started in the hole, with the state’s 46th-ranked job growth rate between 1991 and 2010 improving to 24th on his watch since 2011.
His office boasts of 485,300 private-sector jobs created since 2011, but 280,000 Ohioans remain out of work in a state with one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation.
The state’s OhioMeansJobs.com lists more than 150,000 available jobs, with about half carrying a salary of more than $50,000 a year. But, as Kasich and business leaders bemoan, many Ohioans lack the training and education needed to fill those jobs, with the state placing increasing emphasis on job-training workforce development.
The state’s unemployment rate dropped from 5 percent to 4.7 percent last year, a decrease of 14,000 in the number of jobless. The national average fell more, from 4.7 percent to 4.1 percent. As of December, Ohio’s unemployment rate ranked as the fifth worst in the nation.
How is Ohio doing in other areas?
Ohio still has affordability going for it but the state slipped five spots in overall rankings, dropping into 40th place just ahead of Mississippi and Louisiana, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The nation’s 50 states were ranked based on thousands of data points to measure performance in health care, education, transportation, public safety, fiscal stability of state government and more. Iowa, Minnesota and Utah took the top three spots while Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico were at the bottom.
“It’s disappointing but it’s consistent with other stuff out there,” said Matt Mayer of Opportunity Ohio, a policy think tank focused on government reform and job creation. Mayer, a Dayton native, points to weak job growth as the root of Ohio’s problems, including stagnant wages and anemic population growth. “All the data points add up to: we’re not doing well.”
In the U.S. News & World Report rankings, here is how Ohio stacked up:
36th in health care;
41st in education;
32nd in economy;
25th in opportunity;
23rd in infrastructure;
18th in crime and corrections;
37th in fiscal stability;
40th in quality of life.
Prosperity Now, Washington, D.C.-based group focused on economic security for low-income workers, ranked Ohio 35th overall for how its education, business, housing and other policies put families on the path to prosperity.
And One Ohio Now, a coalition of health, education and human services groups, reported this month that Ohio is failing to invest in education, infrastructure and quality of life programs.
Related: Ohio ranks low in educated states
Ohio is also struggling to shed its top rankings when it comes to fatal drug overdoses, infant mortality and high college debts. The Centers for Disease Control data show Ohio is second only to West Virginia when it comes to the rate of drug overdose deaths.
According to the CDC, Ohio’s 7.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births ranks ninth in the nation for infant mortality. Ohio’s mortality rate for black babies — 15.2 per 1,000 — is nearly three times the rate for white babies and it’s well above the national black infant mortality rate of 11.3 per 1,000.
Ohio ranks 14th for the debt college students face by the time they graduate — $30,351 — and 9th worst for the proportion of students who borrow to pay for school, according to the Project on College Debt.
STATE OF THE STATE
How to watch: You can watch Gov. Kasich’s State of the State address live on our Ohio Politics Facebook page at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Speak out: Join us during the speech on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics and tell us what you think about the issues