Jobs & the economy

Central Ohio leads the way in growth

By

August 15, 2013

Job growth in central Ohio was up sharply this spring, according to a report that shows companies added jobs here at more than three times the rate of the state and nation.

The 11-county region served by Columbus 2020, the economic-development group that released the report, added 15,600 jobs from April 1 through June 30, a gain of 1.6 percent. For the same period, job growth for the state was 0.5 percent and for the nation was 0.4 percent.

The region now has a record 967,700 jobs.

Still, the unemployment rate for the region edged higher, to 6.2 percent for the quarter, but it remains below the state and national averages.

The growth reflects the culmination of projects that have been in the pipeline during the past couple of years, said Kenny McDonald, Columbus 2020 chief economic officer.

The big job gains came after a slow start to the year, with the second quarter seeing outsized gains in manufacturing, health care and leisure and hospitality, said economist Bill LaFayette, owner of economic-consulting firm Regionomics, who provided data for the report.

“We had a weak first quarter offset by a strong second quarter,” he said. “The truth probably lies somewhere between those extremes.”

The growth continues a trend that goes back to the end of the recession, with job gains here outpacing Ohio and the U.S. on a percentage basis.

“Our growth rate over the course of the recovery really has been spectacular,” LaFayette said.

But McDonald said the higher unemployment rate for the quarter was disappointing.

“It tempers (the report) a little bit, but it keeps us really motivated,” he said.

The report shows that there were 38 projects announced in the first half of the year that were creating or retaining 5,438 jobs. The pipeline of projects also is on the rise, in particular in science and technology, a sector in which there were a record 32 projects in the works as of June, Columbus 2020 said.

The central Ohio region compares favorably with others of similar size and makeup, including Nashville, Tenn., Oklahoma City and Charlotte, N.C., and even with Atlanta and Houston, which also compete with Columbus for jobs, McDonald said.

“There’s a lot of communities like us that are growing like us,” he said.

In another recent report, PNC economist Mekael Teshome noted that the total number of jobs in the Columbus area now stands 2 percent higher than the prerecession peak that occurred in late 2007. By contrast, the number of jobs elsewhere in the Midwest and the U.S. remain about 1.5 percent below their peak.

Teshome said yesterday that Columbus’ young and growing population is unique for the Midwest. He also said the population is well educated and the cost of living and doing business in the region is competitive.

“You get those three things together and you have a very good combination to build a diversified economy poised to take advantage of the economy of the future,” he said.

That combination also could have something to do with the rise in population locally.

A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland noted that Columbus is the only big city in Ohio and western Pennsylvania whose population has grown at a faster rate than the nation’s since 1980.

Columbus’ population has increased by 53 percent since then. Cincinnati’s population grew at slightly more than half the national rate, and the population in Pittsburgh and Cleveland fell.

The presence of Ohio State University coupled with companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nationwide and OhioHealth attract students and young professionals, Teshome said.

“One of Columbus’ advantages is that economic growth is generally stable — neither pitching too steeply so as to open the economy to sharp economic collapse, nor sinking drastically during downturns,” he said in the report. “Longer term, a diverse industrial base, healthy population growth, a young and educated workforce and low living and business costs will underpin the market area’s economic potential.”

mawilliams@dispatch.com