By CARL E. FEATHER - Lifestyle Editor - firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in 2001, Joseph Mayernick, executive director of Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, told a reporter for the Business Journal that his organization had, in 11 years, retained 4,000 jobs and created more than 14,000 in Ashtabula County.
“1991 was the low point,” Mayernick was quoted by the reporter. “There were 33,100 people working in Ashtabula County, and now there are 48,000 working.”
Actually, employment statistics from 1991 showed 41,400 Ashtabula County residents employed, which included a net loss of 4,677 out-commuters. According to the estimate prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, the average employment in Ashtabula County in 2001 was 46,300, with an unemployment rate of 6 percent.
At best, the job gain was thus 4,900. However, according to U.S. Census Bureau County to County Worker Flow statistics, There was a net loss of commuters in 7,669, or nearly 3,000 more workers who had found jobs outside the county, leaving a job gain of 1,900.
The Regional Capacity Analysis Program of Iowa State prepared a Shift Share Analysis of the county for the 10-year period 1993 to 2003. The method evaluates a county’s recent growth performance by comparing its actual employment change to expected change, taking into consideration its unique industrial characteristics.
The study shows a net gain of 2,322 private sector jobs, more than half of which were in education and health services. Manufacturing gained 135 jobs during the period.
The overall 9.1 percent growth rate in jobs was lower than that of the state, 9.7 percent, and nation, 17.4, during the same period. According to the report, had the county’ economy been configured the same as the national one, there would have been an expected growth of 4,459 new jobs.
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A Jan. 9, 2008, letter from Joseph Mayernick, executive director of Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, to Larry Bottoms, president of Growth Partnership and Orwell’s mayor, outlines the group’s many achievements. Mayernick credits the retention/creation of at least 6,600 jobs to Growth Partnership activity, which includes helping develop six industrial parks, two joint economic development districts and assisting many companies expand, locate or stay rooted in Ashtabula County.
“There are more people employed here now than there were in 1990 and more people working in manufacturing here now than there were in 1990,” Mayernick says.
Steve Kelley, manager of research for the Ohio Department of Development, says determining those numbers is extremely difficult because, in the late 1990s, the federal government changed the way it classified “manufacturing” industries. Aligning data from 1990 to 2007 is, at best, an apples-to-oranges effort.
When asked to produce the statistics he relied upon for his statement regarding manufacturing jobs in the county, Mayernick said, “We actually don’t have them counted, A, B, C, we don’t use that statistic as such. We can see the buildings and see the people going in them. We know, for example, in Orwell, since 1997 we’ve added at least 1,200 manufacturing jobs that didn’t exist. In Coffee Creek Industrial Park, which was a vacant developed piece of property, there are probably 250 people who work there now. North Bend Industrial Park, which was a blank piece of paper just a few years ago, there’s 120 to 160 probably 200 people working there now.”
Where are the jobs?
To pinpoint where the job growth has been in the county, one must turn to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, a report that takes into consideration only those who work in the county. In 2006, the figures were 32,843 employed, only 27,674 of whom were working in the “private sector.”
In 2000 there were 35,431 employed, 30,126 of them in the private sector.
Of the 2,588 jobs lost, 1,880 jobs were in manufacturing. Overall, the county lost 8.2 percent of its manufacturing jobs, while the state lost 16.4 percent.
“Off the cuff, I would say your economy up there is doing better, but it’s really not,” says Bill LaFayette, economist with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, who ran the Ashtabula County numbers for the Star Beacon.
That’s because Ashtabula County’s job growth in nonmanufacturing sectors has been weak or nonexistent. LaFayette says overall employment levels in Ashtabula County fell 2.5 percent from 2005 to 2006 and dropped 2.1 percent from 2001 to 2006.
The transportation and warehousing sector was the only one to post a significant gain, 24 percent, during the six-year period he studied.
“It’s really interesting,” LaFayette said of the numbers. “I’m not seeing what I expected to see.”
LaFayette says the county’s business services and educational services sectors took especially large hits between 2005 and 2006, down 14.8 percent and 19.6 percent, respectively. Information lost 5.2 percent of its workers, and accommodation and food services dropped 8.4 percent. Looking at the bigger picture, 2001 to 2006, real estate and leasing lost 28.4 percent and educational services 25.4 percent (jobs lost).
With this shift has come a loss in earning power. Compared to national and state averages, per capita personal income also has been sliding downward in Ashtabula County. In 2000, the per capita personal income in Ashtabula County was $22,422, more than $7,000 below the national figure. Five years later, Ashtabula County per capita personal income had grown modestly to $25,632 but had fallen to nearly $9,000 below the national average.
An analysis of Ashtabula County’s economy prepared by ecanned.com, which uses U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, shows the overall wages are 23.8 percent less than the state average, $36,666. Nationally, the industry average wage was $40,259; in Ashtabula County, it was $27,853.
Overall, ecanned.com’s calculation of Ashtabula County industry wages from 2001 to 2006 shows a 14.1 percent increase, less than the growth in average industry wages for both Ohio and the nation.
Certainly, there have been some bright spots and success stories in attracting industries to the area that pay living wages. Among those better paying employers are the Save-a-Lot Distribution Center in Saybrook Township. Save-a-Lot has been running display advertising in the Star Beacon for order selectors. The positions are advertised at $13.40 to $23.90 per hour. An employee at the distribution center refused to comment on how many applications that ad generated, and the corporate office refused to return multiple calls requesting information.
Rick Selip, president of Grand River Rubber, says the average shop floor worker at his factory earns more than $50,000 annually. Selip says much is expected from those workers, however, who are motivated by both individual and team-based piece-work incentives.
“We have a very dedicated and hardworking workforce,” he says.
To get an idea of just how in demand well paying, low-skilled jobs are in the county, consider that a sanitation worker opening with the city of Ashtabula drew 56 applicants. Why so much interest in being a garbage man? The job pays $18.50 an hour and offers benefits worth as much.
Traditionally, unions ensured a sustainable wage for the blue-collar worker, but union jobs, like manufacturing employment, are disappearing from the local labor landscape.
Virtually all new industry brought into the area in the past 18 years has been non-union. Nationally, union membership dropped by nearly half from 1973 to 2003.
So what Ashtabula County jobs pay well, and which ones leave their workers scrambling to make ends meet?
Data compiled by the Web site ecanned.com shows that people who work in the securities and commodity contracts brokerage industry had the highest average wages in the county during the second quarter of 2006, $118,133 annually. Unfortunately, those jobs are pretty scarce.
Bureau of Labor Market data for calendar year 2005 shows utility companies offered the highest average weekly earnings: $1,285. Unfortunately, the county lost nearly 200 jobs in that sector from 2000 to 2005.
Manufacturing, with an average employment of 8,700, paid an average weekly wage of $758.
At the low end, accommodation and food services workers collected an average of $185 weekly (unreported tips can boost earnings in this sector). The retail trade, which lost 28 jobs during the five-year period, paid its workers $368 a week.
In the mid-range, health care and social assistance paid its workers average wages of $513. The latter category posted the largest job gain for the county, nearly 600 jobs.
Ecanned lists the top five growth industries for the county during the 2001-2006 period as RV parks/ recreational camps, building materials/ supplies dealers, basic chemical manufacturing, department stores and physician offices.
Losers were employment services (workers hired through temporary agencies), metalworking machinery manufacturing, rubber product manufacturing, depository credit inter-mediation and grocery wholesalers. Ecanned’s calculations confirmed those of LaFayette and showed a 2.5-percent decline in jobs.
The Ohio Department of Development makes employment projections by industry sector for different regions of the state. With 2004 as a base year, the department’s crystal ball projects the region will lose another 4,700 goods-producing industries by 2014. Growth will be in the service-providing sector, with the strongest growth in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, and leisure and hospitality.
most annual openings
(Ashtabula, Trumbull & Mahoning counties)
Annual openings/ average 2004 wage
384 / $7.46
376 / $10.01
326 / $7.07
278 / $7.40
Waiters / Waitresses
233 / $23.68
192 / $11.89
Laborers, material movers
155 / $19.05
120 / $9.49
120 / $16.46
117 / $7.73
108 / $9.20
Source: Oho Department of Job & Family Services, Bureau of Labor Market Information, June 2005. Average annual salaries are used.