DAYTON JOBS: May was good, but 2024 is a dud for job growth so far



Employers in the Dayton region stepped up hiring in May, and the local economy posted its highest monthly job gains since the fall of last year, according to preliminary federal labor data.

However, the local economy overall has lost jobs in the first five months of this year, and the region has cut workers or saw very weak job growth or no gains in about 11 of the last 16 months.

“I think that Dayton, like the state, has ended its (pandemic) recovery and is now in this phase where it sometimes gains, sometimes loses jobs,” said Michael Shields, economist and senior researcher with liberal-leaning Policy Matters Ohio. “One important distinction is that Dayton has not fully recovered the jobs lost to COVID-19, but if you set aside the big growth areas (Columbus and Cincinnati), then Dayton looks very similar to Ohio overall.”

The Dayton metro area created 800 new jobs in May (+0.2%), which was the largest job increase in seven months, says seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that will be subject to revision.

The metro area created just 200 new jobs in the two previous months combined.

Before that, local employers cut workers for four months straight, slashing 1,400 jobs in February, 200 in January, 300 in December and 900 in November. The region has a net loss of 600 jobs so far this year.

But Dayton’s employment growth in May was the best since October and it was the second highest monthly total since February of 2023.

The metro area consists of Montgomery, Greene and Miami counties. The region employed about 387,900 people in May.

Ohio’s economy

Six of Ohio’s 11 metro areas have lost jobs so far this year, including Akron, Canton, Mansfield, Springfield and Toledo.

Cleveland and Lima have seen very minimal job growth, while Cincinnati and Columbus has seen modest payroll expansion.

Ohio created more than 21,000 jobs in May, which was the state’s best tally since January 2023. The state added nearly twice as many jobs in May as it did the four previous months combined.

“Though it’s only one month of data, May job numbers are the strongest sign we’ve seen from a job market that has looked pretty healthy but not been adding big numbers of jobs so far this year,” said Shields, with Policy Matters Ohio.

Also, Ohio’s unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 4.2% in May.

Shields said this increase was due to more people joining the workforce, which can be a positive sign that Ohioans are feeling are confident about being able to find a job. He said May was a very strong month for Ohio job-seekers.

Shields told this newspaper that Dayton and Ohio have moved from a pandemic recovery to a new normal for the labor market.

He said the job mix has changed, mostly in a positive way, since there’s been growth in better paying jobs in Ohio and Dayton. But he noted that some good-paying occupations (like nurses) have decreased.

“I think Dayton’s labor market in terms of number of available jobs is fairly good, including some better opportunities opening up in the last couple of years and better wages,” he said. “However, I think the region, like the state, is still grappling with decades of under-paying working people.”

Ohio’s unemployment rate has steadily increased over the past year as the demand for workers has eased and the number of jobs declined, said Rea Hederman Jr., vice president of policy at right-leaning Ohio think tank The Buckeye Institute.

But Hederman said Ohio’s job market is in good shape as private businesses continue to add workers and create jobs.

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