Ohio could recover COVID job losses by year’s end; but that’s less likely in Dayton region

Although Ohio and the Dayton region both added jobs again last month, the state is on track to regain all of the jobs that were axed early in the pandemic by early next year while Dayton faces a longer road to recovery unless hiring picks up, according to researchers and this newspaper’s analysis of federal labor data.

“Dayton has recovered a smaller share of jobs than the state so far, though I’d say it’s close,” said Michael Shields, a researcher with liberal-leaning Policy Matters Ohio. “Ohio has recovered 84% of the jobs lost to COVID-19. Dayton MSA has recovered 79%.”

But the rate of recovery also could slow or be derailed if a recession is coming down the pike, which some economists say is possible, or if economic challenges like inflation aren’t put under control, some groups say.

Ohio’s job growth slowed in April, but the state still added 9,500 jobs and so far this year it has created nearly 71,000 new jobs, according to preliminary and seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If Ohio can maintain the current pace of growth, it could erase the pandemic jobs deficit later this year, said Rea Hederman Jr., executive director of the Economic Research Center at the conservative-leaning Buckeye Institute.

But Hederman said a lackluster U.S. jobs report in April and growing inflation issues raise serious concerns about whether that will happen.

“Ohio’s job market grew faster than the national average in April, but economists are warning that these good times may not last as inflation — which is the highest the country has seen since the 1980s — takes a toll on economic performance,” he said.

The Dayton metro area created 1,000 new jobs last month after a minor letdown in March when local employers trimmed their payrolls for first the first time in half a year, according to the preliminary and seasonally adjusted federal labor data.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

March’s slight employment loss of 200 workers ended five consecutive months of gains, which was the region’s longest period of growth since 2015.

The Dayton metro area includes Montgomery, Miami and Greene counties.

The Dayton region has seen employment gains in eight out of the last 11 months, during which time local employers hired more than 8,000 workers.

In just the first four months of 2022, the Dayton area has generated 3,400 new jobs.

But the Dayton region lost 61,400 jobs in the first two months of the COVID pandemic (March and April 2020), or 15.6% of the local job base, said Monica Jones, Dayton’s manager of the division of management and budget during a recent finance committee meeting.

Local employers since then have hired back about 46,200 workers, which means 12,700 new jobs need to be created to return employment to the February 2020 level.

But at the current rate of employment growth, the region may not recover all of the pandemic-related job losses until late summer of 2023 — and that assumes the labor market does not hit a major snag before then.

At current job growth rates, Columbus and Toledo are very close to a full recovery, while Cleveland potentially could get there later this year and Canton could maybe in the spring of 2023.

Akron and Mansfield have shed jobs this year, Cincinnati has lost workers for two straight months and Springfield’s job growth has been notably weak, and unless they turn things around, they may have a very long climb ahead.

The state and Dayton region are restoring jobs at a good pace, said Shields, with Policy Matters Ohio, but he agrees that there are some economic headwinds.

He said policymakers want to quell high inflation, but how they go about trying to accomplish that matters.

“If the Federal Reserve moves too quickly to boost interest rates and slow the economy, they risk slowing or even reversing the jobs recovery,” he said.

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