Zeller: No recovery in Mahoning Valley

SALEM – “There are a lot of people going around saying phony things about this recovery,” Cleveland Economist George Zeller said, “we are (recovering) but not in the Mahoning Valley and not fast enough statewide.”

Ohio gained 5,538 manufacturing jobs during the second quarter of 2013, but that rate is far too slow, Zeller said Thursday.

Speaking beyond the latest unemployment claims, Zeller, a 1967 Salem High School graduate, said, “It hasn’t happened yet (full recovery) and we need to catch up … we need faster growth. Everyone’s saying things now that are not true.”

Zeller began with the numbers in 2000 and laid them out in painstaking detail.

“These figures are accurate,” he said.

The state’s loss of 208,041 jobs between 2000 and 2007 represented 3.8 percent of the state’s employment and Zeller said there were “actually two recessionary periods,” the one beginning in 2000 and followed by the 2007 recession.

In the second quarter of 2000, Columbiana County had 34,813 jobs (excluding federal jobs), Mahoning County had 112,667 and Trumbull County had 95,626 jobs.

In the second quarter of 2013, Columbiana County had 30,178 jobs (-4,635 or -13.3 percent), Mahoning County had 96,508 jobs (-16,159 or -14.3 percent), and Trumbull County had 70,090 jobs (-25,536 or -26.7 percent).

The Youngstown area total was 243,106 jobs in 2000, but in 2013 that dropped to 196,776 or 46,330 fewer jobs for a 19.1 percent decline.

On his county-by-county charts, Zeller indicates at the end of each how many years it will take for that county to recover, or return to the job levels of 2000 when the “first recession” began.

To find that, Zeller takes the number of jobs lost divided by the number of jobs gained in the past year.

“It’s good in most places,” he said, “but not in the Mahoning Valley” where no gains translate into him placing the letters “INF” at the end of the columns for Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

That stands for “infinity” he said, noting that if no job gains are realized a recovery point can’t be started.

He noted the most recent numbers in Trumbull County which showed job slippage from 2012 to 2013 of 725 jobs for a one percent decrease, in a county that has led the Valley upwards since bottoming out 69,784 jobs in 2010 and slowly climbing back.

“The key factor driving these numbers is manufacturing,” he said. “That’s why it was disappointing to see such bad figures in Trumbull County. So manufacturing has always been the key and in Columbiana and Carroll counties there has been small growth, but not enough to offset other places.”

Carroll County, which is leading the state in oil and gas well drilling permits, is the only county in northeast Ohio that is moving out of the recession, but Zeller qualifies that point too.

“There are actually two recession periods,” he said explaining the state had not gotten back to 2000 job levels when the 2007 recession hit.

“The 2007 recession contributed to the volume,” Zeller said and Carroll County is the only county gaining because of fracking. There is activity in other counties but its buried under the all the job losses since 2000, “the manufacturing losses are what’s dragging the counties down.”

He said the oil and gas industry jobs are hard to track and break down.

There is no such industry calculus, he said, the jobs that can be tracked, “it seems a lot of those jobs are in management and estimates.”

Zeller wondered, “How much is fracking and how much are the people cutting grass. No that anyone if trying to inflate things … it’s just very difficult to do it accurately.”

One indicator Zeller pointed to is Medina County.

“Even Medina lost jobs,” he said, “I bemoan last year. It’s very troubling to see counties like Medina lose jobs … that’s very unusual. We are growing, but too slowly.”

Zeller said, “The problem is this has been going on for so long,” adding “another statewide problem is paychecks have declined two-tenths of a percent.

“We’re no longer talking of people who lost jobs … but of people working and taking pay cuts.”

“We’re not talking just about people laid off, but the working people … the rest are struggling to keep their paychecks from falling.”