BY STEPHANIE GROVES
OHIO — Ohio’s manufacturing sector is gaining strength after suffering the worst economic decline since the depression era of the late 1920s by adding 54,000 jobs in the state over the past four years. According to state employment statistics, it is the best gain in the past 20 years in such an economic period.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that Ohio had the second-biggest job gains of any state in January, adding 16,700 positions. At that time, the number of manufacturing jobs in Ohio was 668,600 and the number of manufacturing workers nationwide was 12.1 million
The Current Employment Statistics Survey released by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on March 7 reports that nationally, employment in manufacturing changed very little with 6,000 jobs added in February.
The January state employment report released recently showed 23 states reporting more hiring for that month, while 27 said that the number of jobs fell; Ohio ranked behind Texas, which added 33,900 positions.
Over the past 7 months, the industry has added 83,000 jobs.
In Ohio, the sectors that added the most jobs included construction, manufacturing and professional and business services.
Ohio’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for that month was 6.9 percent, down from 7.1 percent in December. The national jobless rate was 6.6 percent in January.
U.S. Bank’s regional investment director Jim Russell recently spoke at the Ohio Bankers League’s annual economic summit and said Ohio is going to be in the epicenter of something pretty good. Optimism stems from trends developing in the manufacturing sector which includes:
• New energy sources which will allow production of less expensive supplies of natural gas;
• Higher wages and concerns about quality which have prompted employers to move jobs back into the U.S.;
• The U.S. uses technology in manufacturing that is superior to that in other countries, and;
• Manufacturers are spurring job creation and improving on stability and efficiency by keeping suppliers close.
President of the Ohio Manufacturers Association Eric Burkland said manufacturers responded to the weakened economy by investing in technology and product development. He said coming out of the last recession — when all the cuts were made in budgets and head counts — companies were very cautious about hiring. Burkland said that caution has been replaced by confidence due to Ohio’s competitive markets and companies are now hiring.
Manufacturing employment is important to Ohio because it makes up a greater share of the state’s economy than the nation’s and the jobs tend to provide higher pay.
Russell said 17 percent of Ohio’s economy is powered by manufacturing, compared with 12.5 percent of the U.S. economy and 12.8 percent of the state’s workforce is in manufacturing, the sixth most in the nation.
Operations Manager for Samuel, Son & Co.’s plant in Heath, Jim Waterman, said the steel-band manufacturer has been expanding due to the high demand for their products, especially in the energy, automotive and pipeline industries.
He said during the height of the recession, the company cut about 90 percent of its workers and now the plant has 105 workers, more than before the recession.
In 1979 the state peaked at 19.4 million manufacturing jobs, which decreased to 1 million in the year 2000.