MEDINA — An analysis of state job data has concluded that Ohio has lost thousands of high-tech, high-pay jobs, as industries have shed workers or added few jobs.
Data compiled by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services showed that employment declined in 24 of 30 industries categorized by the state as both high technology and high wage. The net loss over the decade totaled about 120,000 jobs. That’s nearly a quarter of the approximately half-million employed in those industries in 2000.
While most of the high-tech industry sectors in Ohio are manufacturers, many lost jobs are in industries such as aerospace, chemical, computers, turbine and power transmission, electronics and medical devices.
And although workers in high-tech industries make up only about 10 percent of all Ohio workers, they earn middle-class wages, averaging nearly $67,000 a year in 2011.
The chief of workforce research for the Ohio Bureau of Labor Market Information says some jobs, such as maintenance and cleaning, may not have disappeared, but were outsourced to firms in the service sector.
“The job is still in the factory, but it’s not counted as being in manufacturing anymore,” Lewis Horner said.
Although Ohio’s employment picture has improved overall in the last couple years, the state saw substantial job losses in the past decade. The six high-tech sectors that have grown — including software publishers, computer system design, drug and medicine manufacturing and colleges and universities — have hired few workers. Fewer than 27,000 new jobs were added statewide since 2000, Horner said.
Some researchers argue that the basics of the U.S. economy have changed and slower job growth and higher unemployment are the norm.
“I think it’s a structural change in economy needed to be globally competitive,” said Mead Wilkins, director of Medina County Job and Family Services.
Many workers already have dropped out of the middle class due to pressure on wages in the global economy, and the proportion of middle-class families has been going down for the past decade and probably will continue to shrink, he said.
Wilkins suggests that a better-educated labor force could help.
“We just have to be smarter than the rest of the world,” he said. “That’s the only way we’re going to continue to be an economic powerhouse.”
But some experts such as Alan Tonelson argue that education alone won’t help American workers get jobs. He maintains that U.S. trade policy gives Third World countries and unfair advantage in global markets.
Developing nations understand the value of improving its population’s education and skill levels, but they retrain such enormous amounts of surplus labor that their wages will remain very low even for highly skilled workers, said Tonelson, a researcher with the United States Business and Industry Council.
Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., was more optimistic.
She agrees that many jobs are not coming back, but believes “there are other jobs around the corner.”