“While manufacturing employment has been declining, output has been rising very nicely,” LaFayette says. “Manufacturing is not nearly as sick as many people think it is.”
Statewide manufacturing employment fell 21.6 percent from 2001 to 2007 but output increased by a third, thanks to technology.
Ashtabula County lost more than 1,800 manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2006, an 8.2 percent loss, much less than the rest of the state or nation. Although Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County has been successful in attracting new industries to the county and building industrial parks, that growth failed to keep pace with the loss of aging manufacturing plants. From 2005 to 2006, the county had a net loss of 180 manufacturing jobs, according to Labor Department statistics.
Team NEO, which charts economic growth in the 16-county northeast Ohio “Cleveland Plus” region, states in its September 2007 review that while manufacturing has grown the least of any sector in the region, it still represents 20 percent of the overall economic output. The economic sectors that constitute the other 80 percent have enjoyed steady growth. Overall, the region’s economy has grown 32 percent in the past 15 years, according to Team NEO.
Despite that growth, median household income in the eight-county northeast-Ohio region declined by $6,367, according to the Census Bureau. Jobs are shifting to the lower-paying service sector; more and more families are forced to depend upon two, or even three or four, incomes to make ends meet. Even at that, they aren’t making as much money as one wage earner could have made in one of the manufacturing jobs of the old economy.
“You’ve lost all these jobs that create spill-over and impact the community,” LaFayette says of the transition from manufacturing to service-sector jobs. Everything from retailing to social services is affected.
An analysis of Census Bureau data spanning the years 2000 to 2006 was prepared by Mark Salling, a demographic expert with Cleveland State University’s College of Urban Affairs and the Center for Community Solutions. Salling confirmed that Ashtabula County is part of the northeast Ohio eight-county region covered by his analysis, which was reported on by The Plain Dealer Sept. 12, 2007.