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Wage Inequity, Lack of Jobs: What’s to Celebrate in Ohio This Labor Day?

PHOTO: The "State of Working Ohio 2014" report from Policy Matters Ohio finds inequities in wages and low workforce participation. Photo credit: M.Connors/morguefile.
PHOTO: The "State of Working Ohio 2014" report from Policy Matters Ohio finds inequities in wages and low workforce participation. Photo credit: M.Connors/morguefile.
September 1, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – As we pause to celebrate the American worker this Labor Day, a new report indicates many Ohio workers may not feel so appreciated.

Amy Hanauer, executive director of the research group Policy Matters Ohio, says its new report, "State of Working Ohio," finds labor market participation was at a 34-year low in 2013.

"While some of those reasons are valid, what concerns us is when people have left the labor market even though they are prime age, even though they're of working age, that's a sign that the labor market is just not producing the opportunities that we want," she stresses.

Hanauer says since 2005 when tax cuts were passed promising job creation, Ohio has lost more than 2 percent of its jobs while the nation added almost 4 percent.

More than 7 percent of local government positions have been slashed.

The report also found that while productivity grew by almost 67 percent since 1979, median hourly wages fell by one percent.

Ohio's median wage of $15.81 per hour last year was 90 cents below the national median wage.

And Hanauer says there are staggering wage inequalities, with the top 1 percent of earners bringing in about 18 times more than everyone else.

"The bottom 99 percent of Ohioans as a group actually saw their incomes decline by 7 percent, while the top 1 percent as a group saw their incomes grow by more than 70 percent since 1979," she points out.

Hanauer adds policies are needed that spur job creation in the state, including investments in education and the green economy, which she says can both position Ohio for long-term growth and more efficient use of resources.

"One of the things that I really love about these two strategies is that they are smart, they save money down the road, they make our communities better and stronger and they employ people now,” she says. “This is the time to do that."

The report also recommends rehiring laid-off public sector workers.

Hanauer says these investments will reduce future costs for remedial education, incarceration, unemployment and energy while increasing employment.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH