Today’s Regional and State Employment and Unemployment release by Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that conditions for Buckeye State workers are improving. Of course, there’s going to be a tug of war between ex-Governor Strickland and current Governor John Kasich for credit. In a sense I don’t care, because I just want to see things get better, but if were going to pin the credit on someone, it would not be Donkey Ted.
Some of the numbers:
- (Table 3) Ohio’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.9% in March, just barely above the nation’s overall rate of 8.8%. February’s rate was 9.2%.
I don’t have time to fully check this, but I’m pretty sure it has been a very long time since the state and national rates have been so close(Note: I stand corrected on this point, as November’s 9.8% Ohio rate was the same as the national rate; however, the next sentence remains true, and has been generally so for at least several years, as seen in Comment 2 at below.) More typically, Ohio’s rate has been a half-point to a full point higher.
- (Table 4) The raw unemployment rate (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) is 9%, down from 9.8% in February. That 0.8% one-month drop compares with last year’s February-March drop of 0.5%, from 11.5% to 11.0%. Only Kentucky (from 11.2% to 10.2%), New Mexico (8.8% to 7.4%), and Oklahoma (7.4% to 5.7%) had larger raw one-month drops.
- (Tables 3 and 4) The out-of-state exodus and workforce dropout phenomena seen during the Taft and Strickland eras may be coming to a halt. The seasonally adjusted workforce was essentially the same in January, February and March, while the number of unemployed dropped by about 25,000. That means that the unemployed were finding work in Ohio, not leaving the state in hopes of finding it elsewhere or dropping out and giving up. Not seasonally adjusted, the workforce grew by 2,800 in March, while the number of unemployed dropped by a very impressive 47,700.
- (Tables 5 and 6) More Ohioans are working. The seasonally adjusted Establishment Survey of businesses shows a 2,200-job pickup in March. The month’s not seasonally adjusted increase (i.e., the actual increase in the number of people found working) was 20,200.
Strickland defenders who want to claim hangover credit for the improvements described are going to have to point to some kind of policy specifics driving this improvement. Good luck with that.
The more likely answer is that after seeing November’s election results, Ohio’s businesses and out-of-state businesses looking to locate or expand in Ohio realized that Buckeye State would finally be open for business again, and that taxes will probably not go up, even as Governor Kasich and the General Assembly wrestle with the $8 billion millstone Ted Strickland hung around their necks as he left the Governor’s mansion. Expectations matter; expectations have improved, and it appears that opportunistic businesses are acting on those expectations.
But, as is said frequently elsewhere: Faster, please.
Today at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Reginald Fields has a lengthy write-up on Kasich’s first 100 days. Bottom line, to me: Kasich on substance is on track to accomplish a lot, though his style is sometimes lacking (as I noted here back in February). I’ll take the latter if it gets me lots of the former; I’ll bet that most beleaguered Buckeye Staters who have endured 12 years of Taft-Strickland drift would agree.