In many ways, 2019 was a challenging year for the Dayton region. But business and the local economy continue to push forward, reflecting a strong national economy and resilient local companies.
Businesses continued to hire, expand, and move to the area — General Motors, CareSource, Booz Allen Hamilton, Tyler Technologies, among others. The year also saw continued Dayton Arcade development and continued strength at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
But explosive job growth wasn’t in the cards for the region this year. Non-farm employment grew in the Dayton area just 1.2 percent from October 2018 to October 2019, according to federal data.
“Growth but sluggish growth,” said Thomas Traynor, dean of Wright State University’s Raj Soin College of Business.
Companies created or committed to create 2,220 new jobs in the 12-county area surrounding Dayton, creating $101 million in new annual payroll, according to tentative numbers from the Dayton Development Coalition, an economic development organization tasked with recruiting and retaining businesses in this region.
That’s a steep decline from the 3,700 new jobs that were committed to the area in 2018, according to coalition data, but a jump from 2017 when 2,000 jobs were added.
The coalition said 36 new projects were drawn to the area in 2019, 7,623 existing jobs were retained or protected, and $703 million in new capital was invested.
That last metric is important to the coalition. Citing a statistic he says he picked up in a University of Dayton economics class, Jeff Hoagland, the coalition’s president and chief executive, said some 80 percent of new jobs are created by businesses already in a metropolitan area or state.
“You have to take care of your existing companies,” Hoagland said.
Growing the businesses already in the Dayton region is often where the real action is.
“I think they (JobsOhio) want to see an even stronger push of meeting with our local companies,” Hoagland said. “So in 2020, we’re going to try to get out there even more.”
It’s hard to overstate the impact of two particular Wright-Patterson projects — the expected arrival of the F-35 support program and the new headquarters for the ever-growing National Air and Space Intelligence Center or NASIC.
Every high-paying, technical job created in those operations spawns even more jobs elsewhere, Hoagland said.
“With those new missions coming here, that multiplier is two to three X,” he said. An expected approximately 300 F-35-support jobs would contribute to the creation of 600 to 900 new jobs elsewhere in the region, as those new employees move into the region, buying homes and more.
“Those folks who come to serve both in and out of uniform bring families, they need health care, they need housing, they need all those things,” said Elaine Bryant, coalition executive vice president for aerospace and defense.
“And of course they also need industry — prime contractors, sub-contractors for the Wright-Patt mission,” she added. “It’s all in line with growing the region right now.”
The base already has a $16 billion impact on the region’s economy.
Wright-Patterson today is Ohio’s largest single-site employer, with about 30,000 military and civilian employees. But growth is possible beyond that, Bryant said.
“We could see another 4,000 (jobs) potentially,” she said.
The key is when those new base jobs will appear, Wright State’s Traynor said. At the moment, there is no definitive timeline for when the F-35 support program moves to the base.
“That will be a definite boost for the region,” Traynor said. “We’ll see how that plays out.”
An expected wave of retirements of base employees will not result in a net increase in employment. But Traynor said it should create opportunities for younger and mid-career workers.
“That could help with retention of younger workers in the region,” he said.
Where are the jobs?
Employment growth slowed this year compared to 2018, Traynor said. Defense, scientific, professional services and health care all did well as sectors of hiring.
Health care continued to grow, but more than normal, with 3,800 jobs added in the Dayton area from October 2018 to October 2019, Traynor said.
But he foresees a possible decline to retail and merchandising, with Amazon and online sales continuing to grow.
And Traynor is tracking a decline in administrative support or business-to-business services, such as temporary employment agencies or custodial services, with those areas declining from October 2018 to October 2019.
Tornados hit businesses
The Memorial Day tornadoes affected production more than many people in the area realize, Traynor believes.
“It was definitely an impact, it was definitely a negative impact, and it is definitely continuing,” he said.
Given the extent of the Memorial Day damage, Traynor is somewhat surprised that the local construction sector is up only 300 jobs as of October 2019, compared to a year ago.
GM strikes leaves mark
Buffeted by trade tensions and a big nationwide strike against GM, Midwest manufacturing braved choppy waters in 2019.
In the first nine months of the year, the Great Lake states lost more than 25,000 manufacturing jobs total: Ohio lost some 6,000 jobs; Pennsylvania lost 8,100; Michigan lost 6,500; and Wisconsin lost 4,700, according to federal numbers.
Michael Hicks, professor of economics at Ball State University in Indiana, blames the trade war with China primarily.
There was also a “temporary loss” of about 75,000 manufacturing jobs due to the United Auto Workers strike against GM in October, Hicks estimates. He think those jobs will “return to trend” now that the strike is over.
“If you look at the data over the past year, I think most of the states are going to end 2019 with fewer factory jobs than they started the year with,” Hicks said. “I don’t think there’s much chance of that level of rebound.”
Hicks offers a few caveats. He said the recent shrinking of manufacturing jobs comes on the heels of a significant expansion of those same jobs.
“We’re at the tail end of what has been a very long manufacturing expansion,” he said.
He said as well that manufacturing these days has a lower share of national employment. And he guesses that since the national jobless rate is already so low, that may “mask” potential problems in manufacturing.
Laid-off manufacturing workers “are likely to be able to find some replacement jobs. They’re not as likely to be as good a job as the ones that they lost,” Hicks said.
Near the start of 2018, Ohio had about 690,000 workers in manufacturing, Hicks said, with that number peaking in June 2018 at around 705,000. Now, the number is closer to the 2018 number, he said. (According to the Federal Reserve, there were just over 697,000 Ohio workers in manufacturing in October 2019.)
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