Monday, November 14, 2011
Northeast Ohio is manufacturing its way out of the Great Recession
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Northeast Ohio's preferred economic pursuit -- making things -- continues to serve the region well, even in the harshest economy since the 1930s.
Manufacturing is helping pull the region out of the Great Recession faster than most of the state and nation, according to an economic analysis being released today by Team Northeast Ohio.
Employment in the 18-county region grew by 1.5 percent in the past year as the economy added nearly 30,000 jobs, the study found. Meanwhile, the regional unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, below the statewide rate of 8.8 percent and national rate of 9.1 percent.
"We've seen a real year-over-year increase in employment," said Jacob Duritsky, director of business attraction at Team NEO, a private economic development agency serving the 18 counties. He credits a Cleveland-Akron-Youngstown tradition.
"Manufacturing is particularly helpful in driving us out of this recession," he said.
Duritsky compiled the data for the quarterly Cleveland Plus Economic Review, which taps information from Moody's Economy.com, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Ohio's Labor Marketing Information to create an economic snapshot of Northeast Ohio.
While the region saw employment increase by 1.2 percent from the second to third quarter of 2011, much of that increase could be a seasonal spike in hiring, Duritsky said. He sees a stronger barometer in the year-over-year increase of 30,000 jobs. About 8,000 of those jobs were in manufacturing, a sector which represents 18 percent of the regional economy.
The numbers were likely buoyed by busy production lines at General Motors' plants in Lordstown and new steel jobs in Lorain and Youngstown, Duritsky said. But he also credits new manufacturing savvy.
The regional economy is being strengthened by companies that successfully transitioned from traditional to advanced manufacturing, a trend represented by venerable employers like GrafTech and Astro Manufacturing, Team NEO contends. Meanwhile, innovative companies like Lubrizol have made the region a national leader in specialty chemicals.
"The diversification in our manufacturing sector is helping to fuel the region's gradual recovery from the 2007 recession," said Tom Waltermire, chief executive officer of Team NEO.
Not to say the good times are here again. A region reliant on manufacturing offers slightly more than 2 million jobs, but that's 90,000 fewer than pre-recession 2007. More than 100,000 adults remain out of work.
The economic snapshot reflects Team NEO's broad view of Greater Cleveland, not the experience of every community. About two weeks ago, the U.S. Labor Department released statistics showing job growth to be nonexistent in the Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor metro area from September 2010 to 2011.
Team NEO's report, covering a wider geography, notes that many of the recent job gains occurred outside of Cuyahoga County, in Youngstown, Canton and Akron, which in June ranked third nationally for manufacturing job growth.
Still, Northeast Ohio competes as a region, and the region has added 40,000 jobs since the depths of the recession in 2009, Team NEO found. Some observers see a region poised to rise with the times.
Edward "Ned" Hill, a professor of economics and the dean of the College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, said he's not surprised by the optimistic findings. He said a region that manufactures is a region that exports, and financial trends are smoothing that path by making American products cheaper overseas.
"The declining dollar, it's great for parts of the country that make stuff," Hill said. "And we're starting to see the benefits of the shale gas boom. Those new steel jobs, that's all pipe products."
That might not mean much for the masses of jobless yet. Hill said most area employers are still waiting to add staff. Some are unnerved by the economic drama in Europe, he said, and some are feeling smug.
"They're going to continue to increase productivity for as long as they can before they hire," he said.