A lot of data comes across my desk.
You wouldn’t believe the volume of earnings reports, market studies, survey results, statistical analyses, and charts that march into my email inbox everyday. Few have strong connections to our coverage in the west and south of the county — but if you graze on the figures a little bit at a time, patterns start to emerge.
When taken along with our day-to-day reporting, it looks like Lorain County’s economy is speeding up.
This year we’ve seen any number of business developments, from ongoing work on a new Brew Kettle in Amherst to ground-up construction of Lorain County Health and Dentistry in Oberlin and big-dollar expansion at Harrison Ford in Wellington.
That’s great news, since a 2013 study by Chmura Economics & Analytics showed the Northern Ohio economy limping along slowly. It predicted a five-year trek back to pre-recession standards.
The Ohio unemployment rate is now at 4.3 percent, its lowest point in a decade. The ranks of the jobless have fallen steadily from a 10.6 percent peak in 2009, when more than 600,000 Ohioans were out of work. The overall U.S. unemployment rate is at 4.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Lorain County’s rate is middling at 5.4 percent — worse than every adjacent county.
Cuyahoga, for example, is at 5.1 percent, Medina is at 3.9 percent, Erie is at 4.3 percent, Ashland is at 4.2 percent, and Huron is at 4.8 percent, says the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Let me throw some statewide numbers your way:
• Manufacturing had two to nearly three percent growth month-over-month from April to August and 1.4 percent growth in September.
• Trade, transportation, and utilities shows 1.3 to 1.9 percent growth each month.
• Financial jobs are growing, though the monthly rate is up and down. In September, the sector grew by 1.9 percent.
• Education and health sectors are easing forward at around one percent growth per month.
• Leisure and hospitality is making huge strides with 4.6 percent growth in April and 3.4 percent growth in September, and slightly lower numbers in-between.
Now it’s true that at the same time government jobs are stagnant, as are those in the information industry (that’s us). Most troubling is that professional jobs and business services aren’t showing any gains.
But jobs aren’t the only indicator to watch. Home sales are also an important barometer of economic health.
In Ohio, “lender-mediated” properties have dropped off drastically, nearly half what they were a year ago. Just about nine percent of homes on the market are “distressed” properties owned by banks and mortgage companies, Columbus Realtors reported at the end of October.
Traditional home sales were 13.7 percent in the third quarter of the year. Another good sign: Average sale prices are up 3.1 percent since the second quarter.
These variables are just tiny parts of a very large and complicated equation — one that I desperately hope adds up to a better tomorrow.