Ohio’s pandemic recovery lags the country’s
A “help wanted” sign. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images).
Last week, the Brookings Institution released an analysis of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ohio’s metropolitan areas.
Looking at the two years from February 2020 to March 2022, the analysis tracks 192 U.S. metro areas’ economic trajectory from the beginning of the pandemic until the spring of 2022.
Included in the analysis are eight Ohio metropolitan areas: the “very large” metro areas of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, the “large” metro areas of Akron, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown, and the “midsize” metro area of Canton.
One of the key indicators analysts at Brookings looked at was job growth. All eight of Ohio’s metro areas had less jobs in March 2022 than in February 2020, reflecting a nationwide trend shared with about two-thirds of the metro areas in the country.
Columbus was the only metro area in Ohio that landed in the top half nationally for job growth, with 0.7% less jobs in March 2022 than it had it February 2020. Metro areas outside of the “three Cs” fared particularly poorly, all falling in the bottom quartile of metro areas nationally.
Ohio’s metropolitan areas look a lot better from an employment perspective, with every metropolitan area but Cleveland seeing their unemployment rate improve from February 2020 to March 2022.
Seeing how poorly Ohio’s metropolitan areas fared in job growth, though, suggests unemployment statistics may be driven by other factors rather than people getting jobs who want them. The unemployment rate could also be driven by emigration from the state, early retirement, discouragement and exit from the labor force, or even by deaths of people having trouble getting jobs.
Job posting data tells an interesting story as well. Job postings are up in all eight of Ohio’s metro areas as they are up across the country as well. Canton, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown have seen a moderate increase in job postings compared to national trends. Akron, Cleveland, and Columbus have seen smaller increases in job postings. These likely reflect slower economic recovery in Ohio compared to the rest of the country, likely due to similar factors that have driven slower job growth.
One more interesting statistic from this report is the increase in rent over the past two years. Rents increased in all but two of the 148 metro areas Brookings had data for (San Francisco and San Jose being the exceptions). Ohio’s “three C’s” had slower rent growth than the country, with rents increasing in the 15-17% range. Akron, Dayton, and Toledo, however, saw rent increases more in line with the rest of the country, increasing 20-24% over that time period.
Ohio’s metro areas are doing much better economically than they did in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they still have less jobs than in February 2020 and are lagging behind the country in job postings. While the metropolitan areas can take solace in improved unemployment rates compared to the rest of the country, the reason unemployment is low might not bode well for the future of Ohio’s metropolitan areas.
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