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Do Kasich jobs pay a living wage?

Democrats lampoon Gov. Kasich over his so-called "Ohio Miracle."
Democrats lampoon Gov. Kasich over his so-called "Ohio Miracle."
John Michael Spinelli

With the filing last week of the latest campaign finance reports by major party candidates for governor this year, it's clear incumbent Republican Gov. John R. Kasich, who won his seat in 2010 with the help of Tea Party activists who pushed him to a win in a low turnout election and who wants voters to rehire him in November for a second and final term, has a wide and deep lead over his Democratic challenger with little expectation or worry that Ed FitzGerald will catch him anytime soon.

Gov. John Kasich's first two TV campaign ads talk about the jobs he's created so far. Many of those jobs may not pay a living wage, according to EMSI and BLS data.

With Election Day about six months away, Gov. Kasich can boast $8.5 million cash on hand, compared to only $1.5 million for Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald. Over the first quarter of the year, the GOP governor raised $1.4 million compared to $642,000 for his Democratic challenger.

With all this money sloshing around Kasich's campaign camp, with more expected to funnel in over the months, the central selling point for Gov. Kasich is all about jobs. In his second TV ad of the season that started airing recently—his first one touted his small-town, working class background—Gov. Kasich mentions 238,000 jobs have been created on his watch, a number he says "scratches the surface" of what he will do.

Ohio's unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in March 2014, down from 6.5 percent in February, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported. Ohio’s nonfarm wage and salary employment, ODJFS added, only increased 600 over the month. The number of unemployed workers in Ohio in March was still 353,000 even though the number of unemployed has decreased by 68,000.

A new report from the National Employment Law Project [NELP] finds low-wage jobs have increasingly replaced high-wage positions lost during the downturn. Lower-wage industries accounted for 22 percent of job losses during the recession, but 44 percent of employment growth over the past four years, the NELP report found. Higher-wage industries accounted 41 percent of job losses, but 30 percent of recent employment growth, the reported noted, adding that lower-paid industries like food services, restaurants, temp help, and retail trade accounted for 39 percent of job gains over the last four years. At the national level, there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries than there were prior to the recession. In mid-and higher-wage industries, however, there are nearly two million fewer jobs.

In related news, the U.S. Senate is expected to take up a proposal to increase the Federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 and index the minimum wage to inflation. So while the nation may be back to pre-recession employment levels, it's not back to pre-recession employment quality.

Information specific to Ohio, supplied by the widely recognized and respected workforce data collection group Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. located in Moscow, Idaho, many of the jobs Kasich is touting as a GOP comeback governor don't pay a living wage for Ohio, which amounts to about $20-hour. Joshua Wright tells CGE that nine occupations are projected to add at least 3,000 jobs each, and all but two of them (nurses and heavy truck drivers) pay $14.67 and below at the median level. Meanwhile, of the six occupations expected to lose the most, four are teacher occupations.

EMSI workforce data shows home health aides, a profession that has expanded by 13 percent from 2001-2014, has median hourly earnings of just $9.44-hour. Personal care aides, which has expanded by 18 percent over the same time period [+8,759], pay slightly less at $9.33-hour. Living wage calculations for one adult and one child show a wage of $17.28-hour.

Other high growth job classifications that do not pay a living wage in Ohio include food preparation and serving workers including fast food [$8.68 + 7,424]], laborers and freight, stock, and material movers [$10.86 + 4,601]], heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers [$17.99 +3,838]], customer service representatives [$14.67 + 3,479]] and janitors and cleaners except maids and housekeeping cleaners [$10.40 + 3,032].

While recovery jobs don't pay much, jobs that continue to disappear, like teachers, did pay a living wage. Middle school teachers except special and career/technical education paid $28.53-hour [-630], elementary school teachers except special education paid $28.44-hour [-1,095] while secondary school teachers except special and career/technical education paid $28.14-hour [-1,719]. Write at EMSI says median hourly earnings for occupations that are projected to add at least 500 jobs is $16.88.

Gov. Kasich announced Monday the expectation that 1,095 jobs will be created as part of 14 business deals the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved. Collectively, his communicators said, the projects are expected to result in $48.9 million in new payroll, and spur more than $148.4 million in investment across Ohio.

Trying to gain much needed visibility by dissembling the narrative Kasich has carefully cultivated over the last three years, that his policies alone are responsible for the state's recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, Ed FitzGerald's campaign spokesman said the last job report shows only a select few are benefiting. "Half the 'decrease' in unemployment over the last year is due to Ohioans simply giving up on their job search," FitzGerald spokesman Daniel McElhatten said. "Industries that support middle class families like manufacturing, utilities, trade and transportation lost a collective 11,900 jobs in March alone ... The Governor's plan to fund tax cuts for the wealthy by raising taxes on the middle class and seniors simply does not work."

Ohio, the nation's seventh most populace state, only regained 600 of the 2,300 jobs it lost in February, and lost 3,500 lost jobs in manufacturing. Trade, transportation and utilities also lost 4,900 jobs and local government jobs decreased by another 3,500, according to information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And while Gov. Kasich hopes Ohioans believe the recovery started on his watch, his own budget director, in his last Monthly Budget Report, notes that Ohio started its recovery under former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2009, almost two years before Gov. Kasich's first budget became official. Nearly 80,000 jobs returned to Ohio under Strickland before Kasich's policies—and especially his pet project JobsOhio became official more than year after he became chief executive—were in place, with the help of a very friendly GOP-led legislature.

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