Dayton region’s hot job streak ends, but recovery makes progress

The Dayton region’s economy took a small step backwards last month as a five-month streak of employment gains came to an end, according to preliminary federal labor data.

Local employers shed 300 workers, which was a minor setback for the region as it continues to try to recover thousands of jobs that were lost two years ago at the beginning of the COVID crisis.

But some local employment industries and sectors now employ more people than they did pre-pandemic, such as construction, transportation and warehousing and leisure and hospitality.

“We saw, coming out the pandemic, growth in almost every sector,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, which focuses on logistics and distribution, advanced manufacturing, health care, automotive, IT, aerospace food sciences and other sectors. “We had more projects than ever, our capital investment was one of the highest ever.”

However, sectors including manufacturing, government and education and health services collectively will need to create thousands of new jobs to fully recover.

The Dayton metro area added 6,500 jobs between October and February, which was the first time since 2015 that the region had five consecutive months of payroll increases, according to seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But local employment slipped 0.1% in March, which was the same employment decline seen in the Cincinnati and Cleveland metro areas, according to preliminary labor data that will be adjusted next month.

The Springfield and Mansfield regions suffered even larger losses last month: -0.4% and -0.2%, respectively.

Employment grew in Youngstown (+1.2%), Toledo (+0.3%) and Canton (+0.1%), and Columbus, Akron and Lima all saw the same 0.4% job growth.

The Dayton metro area —which consists of Montgomery, Miami and Greene counties — lost roughly 59,000 jobs in April 2020, when coronavirus lockdowns and stay-at-home orders led to business closures and enormous layoffs.

But two years later, the region has now recovered more than 80% of the COVID-related job losses, and some sectors are doing particularly well.

About 39,900 people worked in leisure and hospitality in the Dayton area last month — which was up 5.8% from March 2020, according to not seasonally adjusted labor data.

Dayton and Youngstown are the only metro areas in the state that have seen increases in leisure and hospitality jobs, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Construction employment in the Dayton area (which also includes mining and logging jobs) has increased 2.2% since March 2020, and transportation and warehousing payrolls have expanded nearly 5%.

Compared to two years ago, employment is down in sectors including information (-8.3%), education and health services (-7.2%) and manufacturing (-5.9%).

Federal employment in the Dayton region has increased 1%, and federal employers like the U.S. Postal Service are hiring. The postal service recently held a job fair at Dayton’s main post office to fill city carrier assistant positions.

But state government jobs in the Dayton region have decreased nearly 11% since March 2020, and local government employment has seen an even larger reduction (-11.5%).

The city of Dayton, which roughly has more than 1,800 employees, still has fewer people on its payrolls than it did before the COVID pandemic, said Brent McKenzie, Dayton’s deputy director of human resources.

“The city is hiring for multiple positions, and it has a large number of openings,” he said.

Montgomery County held a job fair earlier this month to try to find workers to fill more than 100 positions across more than a dozen departments.

Companies in the Dayton region last year committed to creating more than 4,200 new jobs, which was a record number, and the economic momentum carried into 2022, which is shaping up to be a very good year, said Hoagland, with the Dayton Development Coalition.

Sierra Nevada Corp., a Nevada-based national security and aviation-focused company, earlier this year announced it will develop a couple of aircraft maintenance repair facilities at the Dayton International Airport that will create almost 150 new jobs.

Intel a few months ago announced it is going to invest more than $20 billion into building two new computer chip factories outside of Columbus — which is the largest single private-sector investment in state history.

Hoagland said that certainly will benefit the Dayton region since Intel will need local suppliers to provide things like parts, materials and equipment.

The region’s project pipeline is stronger than it has ever been, and the future looks bright, based on the coalition’s economic indicators and project leads, Hoagland said.

“We’re seeing tremendous investment and tremendous amounts of companies looking in the Dayton region and Ohio, like we’ve never seen before,” he said.

By the numbers: Dayton metro area job growth/losses between March 2020 and March 2022

Sector, jobs in March 2022, % change in employment

Leisure and hospitality: 39,900 jobs, +5.8%

Construction, mining, logging: 13,700 jobs, +2.2%

Trade, transportation and utilities: 65,300 jobs, +0.8%

Professional and business services: 51,900, -0.2%

Other services: 13,400, -0.7%

Government: 61,000, -3.5%

Financial activities: 17,300, -3.9%

Manufacturing: 41,200, -5.9%

Education and health services: 70,100, -7.2%

Information: 6,600, -8.3%

Total nonfarm employment: 380,400, -2.2%

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