Jobs in Trumbull County decline

Media group to study state of Ohio economy

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Aaron Jesse of Warren prepares a latte at Nova Coffee Co. in downtown Warren. Trumbull County saw a decline of 770 service sector jobs since 2010, according to U.S. Census figures, placing it among 15 counties in Ohio with less service sector jobs now than in 2010.

WARREN — As the rest of the nation celebrated figures released this month indicating middle class income finally may be recovering from the Great Recession, there were few hurrahs in Ohio — and even fewer in Trumbull County.

Since a 1997 peak of 99,265 jobs, the number of jobs reported in Trumbull County has fallen almost every year until 2017 when that number reached 66,926, according to statistics released Sept. 13.

And while many Ohio counties were seeing an increase in the number of service sector employment jobs in place of the declining traditional manufacturing and industrial jobs, Trumbull County was one of 15 Ohio counties that saw a decline in service sector jobs since 2010. During that time, U.S. Census figures show Trumbull County lost 770 service sector jobs. Jobs measured for this analysis included only those reported and covered by unemployment insurance.

One young Warren businessman is working to make ends meet and combat the struggling local economy.

Logan Reinard, 29, started a coffee shop in 2017 on Warren’s Courthouse Square.

“There are a lot of reasons why some areas succeed and others don’t,” Reinard said. “It depends what you’re surrounded by.”

Reinard said people, especially younger people, don’t want to move into areas that aren’t surrounded by amenities they want.

Areas that have a “mindset of excellence” tend to succeed, he said.

He’s hoping his growing success at Nova Coffee Co. may help counter the alarming trends and evidence of concerns that many who live and work in Trumbull County have been voicing for years — the drastic need for jobs.

Statistics further show the declining number of jobs is coupled by a stark decline in residents’ income.

While raw census figures show Trumbull County’s median household income has grown slowly through the last two decades, adjusted figures utilizing consumer price index formulas spelled out by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a much different picture.

Figures unadjusted for inflation indicate that Trumbull County’s median household income was $38,298 in 1999. That grew to $46,201 in 2017. But when adjusted to current inflation rates in order to give a fair apples-to-apples comparison, that same $38,298 was the equivalent of $56,523. That number declined almost every year until last year’s median figure of $46,201.

Statewide, Ohio’s median household income hit its peak nearly two decades ago. Adjusted figures again show that figure plunged as much as $10,000 during the Great Recession and today remains $6,000 below the 2000 census.

Of course population also has changed in Ohio and in Trumbull County.

Figures show the nation’s population grew 16 percent since the 2000 census, yet Ohio edged up only 3 percent. And Trumbull County population has fallen to 200,380 in 2017 from 241,863 in 1980.

Examining what works

Old methods of revitalization haven’t reversed the decline here. That raises questions: Are there new ways to stop the decline in Ohio communities? Should success be redefined? Who should act?

More than 40 television and radio stations, daily and weekly newspapers and online news organizations, including the Tribune Chronicle, have joined together in a statewide collaborative known as “Your Voice Ohio,” focusing on community and solutions-oriented journalism. The latest project will launch community meetings and conversations across the state focusing on Ohio’s economy. Discussions will ask Ohioans to define a vibrant community. What makes it tick? How can each community move in the direction of vibrancy?

This story begins to set the baseline for an ongoing search for solutions by exploring the amount of dollars flowing into households. Several news outlets contributed, with journalists setting aside competitive instincts to produce the data and obtain interviews from Ohioans.

Analyses of Ohio’s jobs, income and population were compiled by former Akron Beacon Journal investigative journalist and data specialist David Knox, now working as a freelance journalist and team member of the statewide media collaborative. His data work was paid for by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, also a member of the collaborative.

Knox compared historic household income data with new 2017 numbers released Sept. 13.

His analysis found after the 2001 recession, Ohio household incomes imploded so that by 2017, Ohio is now 10.5 percent below the national rate. Moreover, the U.S.-Ohio gap widened from 2016 to 10.5 percent and may be the widest in a half century.

The Your Voice Ohio project will explore jobs, population, home values, quality-of-life, tax abatements and issues that Ohioans suggest be pursued.

There will be community meetings in which journalists will sit with area residents to gain a better understanding of how lives have changed and the solutions needed.

The first round of meetings begins today in southwest Ohio and will end in northeast Ohio the following week, including a conversation 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 30 at Warren G. Harding High School in Warren. To join, go to the Your Voice Ohio website to find a location near you and register.

Doug Oplinger is the retired managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal and now leads the Your Voice Ohio media participants.