Study ranks Warren low for job seekers

Mathew Blinco, 23, originally from Mansfield now living in Warren, right, goes over the job seeking process with Trumbull County Take Flight executive director Susan R. Michael Semple

To review the full WalletHub study, visit:

WARREN — Standing on any hilltop or rooftop along U.S. Route 422 just before dawn, Tim Timko insisted you can clearly see a long chain of car lights as residents travel to jobs in other communities.

“And what do we leave behind in Warren? Darkness, that’s what,” Timko said. “It didn’t used to be that way. It doesn’t matter which way they’re going, which highway or road they’re taking, they’re leaving the city, and in many cases Trumbull County, to go to work somewhere else. That’s the sad reality.”

Timko would know. He is among thousands of local workers who lost jobs in recent years because of downsizing and plant closings. After years of working at the former RG Steel mill, he now makes the daily trek to his job in Solon.

Some members of the local workforce take little comfort in reports indicating Ohio has been outpacing the national economy in job creation or that unemployment rates in recent months were on the mend statewide.

James Robson, who lost his job at WCI Steel in Warren, said seeing the full picture requires a closer look at the Mahoning Valley.

“It’s hard when you think about all the jobs we’ve lost in this area,” Robson said. “We just don’t have the opportunities we once had.”

The views of Timko and Robson are echoed in a recent study by personal finance website that ranked Warren and Youngstown among the worst cities in Ohio for job seekers.

“I’m not surprised,” said Steve Lucas of Liberty, who has been looking for a job to replace the one he lost last year. “I know a lot of people who have had to leave this area to find decent work, the kind of job you can live on.”

Analysts who did the research outlined in the WalletHub report said it’s not just about job availability, but a city’s overall attractiveness to job seekers.

Method / Results

WalletHub, out of 145 Ohio cities included in its recent study, ranked Warren at No. 139, or the 7th worst city in the state for job seekers.

Youngstown, labeled the 10th worst, placed at No. 136, while Niles and Struthers posted at No. 92. and No. 81.

Dublin claimed the No. 1 spot, ranking the best for job seekers, while Lorain scored the worst, coming in last at No. 145. Cities near No. 73, where West Carrollton placed, are considered “average,” according to the study.

The research was done, according to a WalletHub news release, to help job seekers find the best employment opportunities in the Buckeye State. Because local employment scenes and workers’ salaries vary from city to city, analysts compared 145 cities across 16 key indicators of job-market health — from employment growth to median monthly starting salary to unemployment rate — to evaluate the overall employment environment of each.

The cities were selected based on population and the availability of reliable data. Analysts also considered the city proper in each case, excluding surrounding metro areas.

Each metric, or area of consideration was graded on a 100-point scale, with the weighted sum of each city’s individual-metric scores comprising its overall score that was used to construct the final ranking.

To evaluate job market, worth 67 points, the study looked at various areas including job opportunities, employment growth, monthly median starting salaries and full-time versus part-time opportunities.

To evaluate socioeconomic environment, worth 33 points, median annual income, work and commute time, health benefits, housing affordability, safety and social life were among the areas considered.

The analysts used data from several sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Center for Neighborhood Technology, FBI and Council for Community and Economic Research.

Analyst Jill Gonzalez said Warren’s overall rank was mostly due to the city’s job market, coming in at No. 142. The areas that weighed the city down most were its low job opportunities, negative employment growth and high unemployment rate among individuals with bachelor’s degrees. She added that the city also has a high percentage of employed people who live below the poverty line.

Youngstown, she said, has the seventh highest percentage of employed people living below the poverty line and the city has more part-time than full-time workers. The city had the eighth highest unemployment rate for people with bachelor’s degrees.

“Niles fared better than Warren and Youngstown . . . Although it has the fifth highest unemployment rate among bachelor’s degree holders at almost 8 percent. Niles has more of an affordable housing market and an attractive social scene, with a high number of nightlife options at 68 per 100,000 resident,” Gonzalez said.

Another view

Michael Keys, Warren’s community development director, finds the report “a bit skewed” because it considers only job opportunities within the city limits. Keys said it is much more accurate to look at Trumbull County or the Mahoning Valley as a whole.

“It doesn’t take into consideration that Warren residents can cross city lines and work in a nearby community. In that respect, it takes out GM (General Motors), Thomas Steel and other employers,” he said. “A lot of our bigger employers, for example our manufacturing companies, are outside the city. When you look at it that way, you sees things differently.”

Keys said he also found it interesting the study, categorizing No. 1 as best and No. 73 as average, shows Warren ranks No. 56 in job opportunities and No. 54 for job growth.

“Put that with median starting salary at 45th, and those numbers all show that Warren is much better than seventh from the bottom,” Keys said.

But, he said, Warren’s percentage of workforce living under the poverty line weighs the city down.

“Workforce doesn’t necessarily mean people who are working, but those who are able to work,” he said, adding that the city’s affordable housing market attracts people living under the poverty line.

“Warren draws a lot of transient people because they can afford the housing we have to offer,” he said. “That brings the number of people who are included in the workforce, but living under poverty line, up.”

Guy Coviello, vice president of government affairs for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, said one flaw he sees is the formula doesn’t weigh the categories most significant to the Valley.

“When you drill down into the report you see some good indicators as well as some flaws that impact the overall ratings,” Coviello said.

For example, he said, Warren, like Niles and Youngstown, scored well in terms of job opportunities, employment growth and starting salaries. The three local cities also scored well in housing affordability, commute times, transportation costs and social life.

“We scored badly in industry variety and while we’d like to be more diversified, jobs and higher salaries are more important,” Coviello said. “The report accurately shows that we have some weaknesses. Nobody would deny that. But as we see a resurgence in the shale play there is a path toward overcoming those weaknesses.”

Down the pike

The number of jobs in Ohio is projected to grow by 178,000 annually through 2022, according to an Ohio Jobs Outlook publication from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The state report indicates skilled manufacturing, transportation and trade will maintain their positions among Ohio’s leading industries, while the health care and education fields are expected to see the most growth.

Also, between 2014 and 2015, per-capita personal income increased by nearly 3 percent to $43,478, pushing its national rank from 37th to 29th. This year, Moody’s Analytics expects that figure to grow another 5.2 percent.

Local officials and business leaders said they expect to see job growth across the Valley by the end of 2017, especially if the energy industry rebounds as projected.

Last year, as the oil and gas industry downshifted, companies that rely on the energy market, like Vallourec, which downsized, and Exterran, which closed its local plant in Youngstown, adjusted, leaving many workers jobless.

But, Coviello has said, despite disappointing results in local shale play activities, there are expectations of job growth once the energy field rebounds and Valley companies work to supply products the industry needs.

Also, said Sarah Boyarko, the chamber’s senior vice president of economic development, local leaders are consistently working to market the Valley to companies looking to move or expand their operations.

A challenge is that there aren’t many facilities available in the area, specifically Warren, that can be used as manufacturing facilities, Keys said.

But, he added, work continues to promote job growth. For example, hundreds of jobs could be netted if Warren native Christopher Alan’s plans to locate his Los Angeles-based automatic parking system Auto ParkIt at the former Delphi Packard Electric administration building and plant pan out.

“So the bottom line is , I look at this and OK, they’re not not telling us anything we don’t already know, number one, and number two, is that you got to make sure when you’re looking at a study like this, you’re looking at the whole picture,” Keys said. “And actually, employment growth is improving. So, as we work to bring in more companies, like Laird (Technologies), for example, to Warren and, actually the Valley, we’ll continue to see improvements in job growth. We know where we need to be, and we’re working to get there. The key is to keep it all in perspective and be realistic. Consider the information in this study or others like it, but realize where you really are and what you need to do to improve.”