On this week's WHIO Reports, we take a look at the economy in the Miami Valley and the jobs that local companies are trying to fill.

Local incomes still below recession levels, census shows

While the Dayton area has made inroads in recent years, local household income has lost ground since the Great Recession began 10 years ago.

New census data released this week shows the median household income for the Dayton metro area was $52,745 last year, almost flat from 2016. It’s also down from 2008, when the median income was $54,834 when adjusted for inflation.

Median household incomes   
Incomes are recovering but not at pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation.  
 Montgomery CountyDayton Metro Area
2008 $51,285 $54,834
2009 $47,331 $51,594
2010 $45,659 $49,272
2011 $44,245 $48,101
2012 $45,400 $48,603
2013 $45,009 $49,520
2014 $44,154 $48,351
2015 $48,153 $51,196
2016 $47,936 $52,523
2017 $47,755 $52,745

MORE: How do we get the economy to boom for all?

Richard Stock, economist with University of Dayton, said the income data show Dayton is making progress but is still not back to where it was prior to the recession.

“It’s difficult to get back to that median household income when we’ve lost our high wage manufacturing jobs. That’s what keeps us pulled down,” Stock said.

National median income increased in 2017 by 1.8 percent from $60,300 to $61,400. When survey changes made in 2013 and 2014 are considered, 2017’s median income is statistically the same as that in 2007, the year prior to the last recession, and 1999.

The income of a typical Ohio household — $54,021 – remained statistically unchanged from 2016.

“Top-line economic indicators like job growth and the unemployment rate mask deep inequality that intensifies along racial lines,” said Hannah Halbert, project director for Policy Matters Ohio, a labor focused think tank. “This divide is the consequence of our policy choices. We can have an economy that works for everyone, but policymakers must enact tax, budget, and workplace policies that unite us.”

The decline of low-barrier to entry, high-wage manufacturing jobs since 2008 has left a void, including most notably the GM plant in Moraine that closed. The plant has since been brought back to life by Fuyao which has created thousands of jobs but not at comparable manufacturing wages to GM.

Major disconnect: Jobs unfilled despite thousands of unemployed

The Montgomery County poverty rate is still higher than it was before the Great Recession, the new data shows from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey. But the poverty rate has dropped from 18.5 percent to 16 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Courtney Griffith, the Preble County manager for the YWCA, said the challenge is not just helping women in their shelter in securing an income but also finding a way to find transportation to a job and secure day care that’s affordable and open the same hours as available jobs.

“Finding a job in a rural county and keeping that job can be difficult without any other help or support system, especially if she has children,” Griffith said.

Poverty rate change since 2007      
New U.S Census data shows uneven poverty rate changes over the last decade.      
CountyPeople in poverty 2007Poverty rate 2007People below poverty 2016Poverty rate 2016People in poverty 2017Poverty rate 2017
Greene 12,5008.80%19,92912.80%15,3459.70%
Miami9,5049.50%11,37411.10%9,4729.10%
Montgomery77,07414.80%95,68418.50%82,00116%
Warren10,2565.20%11,5815.40%9,2654.20%
*Data not collected for some counties with small populations      
Source: U.S. Census Bureau's 2017 American Community Survey      

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Ohio’s uninsured rate increased from 5.6 percent to 6 percent from 2016 to 2017, making it one of 14 states where the number of uninsured increased, according to Policy Matters Ohio, a labor-focused think tank. That translates to about 42,000 additional uninsured Ohioans last year.

Halbert said health insurance matters in conversations about income and the economy because the ability to access and afford health care affects someone’s ability to take care of themselves and their family.

“So whenever we’re thinking about working families, having health insurance is fundamental into whether families can move up or if they are going to keep sliding further behind,” Halbert said.

Other economic metrics like unemployment and the housing market have continued to improve, but those big picture numbers mask the challenges some residents face earning a livable income and strained social services.

Shannon Isom, CEO of the YWCA Dayton, said when talking about how incomes have changed over time, that number should be considered in context of how access to resources has changed over the same time.

“Has the quality of our resources also stayed the same? And that’s including even quality of resources like transportation, food access, walkability, livability, violence, public health? Because if incomes are increasing even slightly and all of those things have worsened, well then have you really increased your income?” Isom said.

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