Valley leads in industrial job growth in NE Ohio

By Karl Henkel

Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing productivity is on track to outpace the rest of the nation by 10 percent as early as 2015, according to a report released today by Team Northeast Ohio.

Team NEO is a Cleveland-based nonprofit group that tracks economic data for the 16-county “Cleveland Plus” region, which includes the Mahoning Valley.

The report says that emerging sectors such as specialty chemicals and fabricated-metal manufacturing are fueling the region’s manufacturing surge.

Leading the way is the Mahoning Valley, officials say.

Richard Harwood, founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, who visited the area last week, said he believes the Valley is primed for a comeback.

“This community, unlike a lot of other communities in the country, is poised to make a leap,” he told The Vindicator. “What we are seeing is pockets of change.”

Cleveland-area economist George Zeller said such pockets aren’t happening in some other areas of the state, most notably Columbus, which isn’t tracking in the same direction as the Youngstown area in manufacturing growth.

The Cleveland metro area was the second worst region in the country in job growth during September, Zeller said.

“The diversification in our manufacturing sector is helping to fuel the region’s gradual recovery from the 2007 recession and continues to play a prominent role in our economy,” said Tom Waltermire, CEO of Team NEO.

Manufacturing employment in the 16-county region grew by 3.7 percent, or 8,000 jobs, during 2011’s third quarter.

“That’s what always drives recoveries,” said Zeller.

The overall Northeast Ohio economy grew by 30,000 jobs compared with the third quarter in 2010, according to the report, and that’s helped the region’s unemployment rate drop to its lowest point — 8.5 percent — since December 2008.

The same is true for the Mahoning Valley, where September’s unemployment rate was 9.2 percent, the lowest rate since the recession and down 1.4 percent from September 2010.

Zeller said last week that the region has experienced job growth during 15 of the last 16 weeks.

The Valley had a similar streak earlier in the year.

Team NEO’s report also unveiled another promising trend. Through 16 quarters since 2007, Northeast Ohio is trending about 1 percent better than the rest of the nation.

During the same time frame of the 1981 recession, the region lagged behind the national average by about 6 percent.

Cleveland Plus includes Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana, Ashtabula, Carroll, Stark, Summit, Portage, Geauga, Lake, Cuyahoga, Medina, Wayne, Lorain, Ashland and Richland counties.

Team NEO uses Moody’s data, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Ohio’s Labor Marketing Information to aggregate regional statistics.

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