After years of mostly steady gains since the end of the Great Recession, job creation in manufacturing has stalled in Ohio.
While the state added 100 manufacturing jobs last month, the sector has given up 2,200 jobs in the past year, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services data released Friday that showed Ohio’s unemployment rate staying at 4.2% for the third straight month.
After the sector lost nearly 40% of its jobs between 2000 and 2010, it regained some of its losses beginning in 2010 after the end of the recession, adding nearly 90,000 jobs since.
The rate of job growth in manufacturing in central Ohio and throughout the state has exceeded the U.S. average since 2010, according to data tracked by economist Bill LaFayette, owner of local economic consulting firm Regionomics.
But outside 2018, growth has been slowing in recent years in the state, the data shows.
A combination of issues gets the blame: tariffs, a strong dollar that hurts exports, the General Motors strike and shutdown of the Lordstown plant, problems with Boeing’s 737 Max plane, flat auto sales, and weak energy prices.
Various manufacturing surveys show the sector is either contracting or just doing OK, said Bill Adams, a PNC Bank economist who doesn’t think things will get better anytime soon.
“Manufacturing generally will be lagging overall versus the U.S. economy in the next 12 months,” he said.
Even with fewer jobs, manufacturing represents a big part of the Ohio economy. About 12.5% of the state’s jobs are in manufacturing, roughly 700,000 positions, compared with 7.9% nationally.
“It’s a very important source of high-wage jobs in the state,” Adams said.
Ohio’s manufacturers continue to be optimistic about the future, said Erik Burkland, executive director of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, a trade group.
He said the biggest problem continues to be finding the skilled workers to run and repair the machines in factories.
“There are jobs to be had if the right skills are there,” he said.
Cleveland economist George Zeller, who has tracked employment in Ohio for decades, said he hopes that the job losses in manufacturing over the past year are not a sign of bigger problems ahead.
” If it’s true, we’re in serious trouble,” he said.
While the jobless rate remained the same last month, employers did add 6,700 jobs, the biggest gain of 2019, the state report shows.
But even with those results, the state had 4,400 fewer jobs last month than it did in January.
The 4.2% unemployment rate is one of the highest rates in the country. The U.S. rate was 3.5% last month.