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Report: Benefits of Economic Expansion Elude Ohio Workers

In 2019, Ohio remains 28,000 jobs below employment levels in early 2000. (monkeybusiness/Adobe Stock)
In 2019, Ohio remains 28,000 jobs below employment levels in early 2000. (monkeybusiness/Adobe Stock)
September 3, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An annual examination of the health of Ohio's workforce reveals that for the most part, workers aren't faring as well as they should be.

According to the "State of Working Ohio 2019" report, median hourly wages are up about $1.50 an hour since 2011, when adjusted for inflation. But report author Amy Hanauer, executive director at Policy Matters Ohio, explained that's 50-cents an hour behind the national median - and lower than Ohio's median wage in 1979.

"If you think about the fact that we are supposed to be in the final year of the longest expansion on record, we're really not seeing the kinds of results that we should for this point in the cycle,” Hanauer said. “Workers just aren't getting their share of the economy."

She said there is also an employment paradox. Ohio's unemployment rate of 4.5% in 2018 was its lowest since 2001. However, labor force participation - people currently employed and those seeking jobs - is about 62%, the second-lowest it's been in nearly four decades. Ohio remains 28,000 jobs below levels in early 2000.

The report showed the top 10% of earners saw their wages grow by more than $9 an hour between 1979 and 2018 - but wages dropped slightly for the other 90%. And Hanauer said tax cuts at the state and federal levels have generally benefited the wealthiest Ohioans.

"The people who are already kind of benefiting the most from our rigged economy are then also benefiting more from our tax system,” she said. “And then, we're left without the resources to invest in things that would help all of us, like education, child care, treating our drug epidemic, or dealing with our dirty lake."

The report has recommendations to better support workers. They include raising the minimum wage and encouraging unionization, which Hanauer said can help improve wages for people of all races and genders. The research showed full-time working women earn roughly $7,000 a year less than their male counterparts, and black Ohioans earn more than $10,000 a year less than white Ohioans when both work full-time, year-round.

This story was produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH