Dayton region, Ohio finally could reverse COVID job losses

Three years after the start of the pandemic, the Dayton region and Ohio are finally on the verge of regaining all of the jobs lost early in the public health crisis, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of preliminary federal labor data.

The Dayton region and the state could be one or two months of strong hiring away from finally reaching this long-awaited milestone.

The “revised job numbers are resoundingly good news,” said Michael Shields, senior researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, referencing revisions made to last year’s state jobs numbers. This benchmark revision cuts the number of jobs reported missing from Ohio by more than half. Combined with moderating inflation levels, this is a great picture for Ohio’s jobs economy.”

The Dayton metro area added 3,000 jobs in January, which was the largest increase in nearly two and a half years, according to preliminary, seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Dayton region saw its nonfarm employment increase 0.8% to 389,900 workers, according to the data.

This was the largest job gain since September 2020, and hiring in the local region has now increased in four out of the last five months.

The metro area — which consists of Montgomery, Miami and Greene counties — added 1,300 jobs in December, 1,500 jobs in October and 600 jobs in September, the seasonally adjusted data show. Local employment dipped in November (-100 jobs).

Absent any major setbacks, the Dayton region could soon finally reverse all of the job losses that occurred early in the COVID pandemic.

COVID job destruction

There were 392,600 people employed in the Dayton region in February 2020.

During the following two months, local employers cut an unprecedent number of jobs — more than 60,000 — as the state imposed stay-at-home orders and businesses went into lockdown mode.

Dayton gained back about half the jobs it lost in May and June of 2020, but since then it’s been a gradual recovery.

However, the Dayton region now is just 2,700 jobs shy of having the same number of people employed as in February 2020.

Ohio, which added nearly 15,000 jobs in January, now needs just 42,000 new jobs to return to its February 2020 employment level. The state shed more than 884,000 jobs in early 2020.

The Cincinnati, Columbus and Springfield metro areas already have regained all of the jobs they lost and then some. Ohio’s other metro areas haven’t had the same success.

Ohio saw solid monthly job growth in January and the other good news was that there were significant upward revisions to the state’s job growth in 2022, said Rea Hederman Jr., vice president of policy at the Buckeye Institute.

Dayton industry picture

Richard Stock, director of the Business Research Group at the University of Dayton, said seasonally adjusted data indicate that employment in the Dayton metro area in January was just 900 jobs short of January 2020.

He said this difference is within the margin of error for the survey. It’s possible the region already has fully bounced back from COVID.

Stock said the Dayton region’s economy has seen changes to its underlying “industrial structure” that are likely to persist.

Local administrative and waste services jobs have continued to decline, while the health care and social assistance sector has struggled to return to pre-COVID employment levels, Stock said.

Manufacturing employment isn’t back to where it was before the pandemic. Retail is getting close to recouping its losses.

The professional, scientific and technical services sector has seen a sizable increase in jobs compared to January 2020 (+2,800), while leisure and hospitality also has experienced decent growth (+1,200 jobs).

Job growth also occurred in the wholesale trade and the transportation, warehousing and utilities sectors.

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