Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich, who won a very close election in 2010 in large part to Tea Party energy that has since turned against him, promised Ohio voters in his campaign that his shrewd reform strategies, savvy business acumen and crew of seasoned development professionals whose experience was equal to the need to "move at the speed of business," was needed. But that prescription got T-boned again Friday when job statistics from Ohio officials confirmed the Bureau of Labor Statistics assessment that showed Ohio's job climate has continued to deteriorate.
As a result of 3,000 more workers losing their jobs in August, raising the number of jobless Ohioans to 419,000, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported today that 8,200 more jobs disappeared over the past month. Ohio's unemployment went up to 7.3 percent in August from 7.2 percent in July. ODJFS said the 7.3 percent rate is the highest unemployment rate in more than a year.
The BLS's per-home income estimate of $46,829 after adjusting for inflation is hardly different from last year, which means it represents the second consecutive year of stagnating household revenue after a steep decline from 2009 to 2010.
"I do not think we’re going to see [improvement] this year and I’m not sure we’ll see it even next year,” said Bill LaFayette, an economic development consultant in Columbus, according to a Columbus newspaper. "We’ve got a slack labor market. There’s a lot of unemployed folks, and it’s a classical case of supply versus demand. Until we absorb a lot more of the unemployment than we have, we’re not likely to see a lot more improvement."
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, U.S. Census data released recently showed the percentage of people at the very bottom earned 50 percent of the poverty level or less and grew from 4.6 percent of Ohioans in 2000 to 7.6 percent in 2012, a increase of 65 percent.
Only three other states—Michigan, Georgia and Mississippi—experienced extreme poverty go up more than 3 percentage points. Only 14 other states have an overall higher percentage of extreme poverty than Ohio, which follows closely behind Tennessee at 7.7 percent and North Carolina at 7.9 percent.
Ohio in December had an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, but then it hit 7.3 percent in August, the first time it has not been lower than the national average in almost three years.
A progressive economic think tank in Ohio said the jobs losses erase the small gain in July, which leaves the state down more than 13,000 jobs since its 2013 peak in May.
Policy Matters Ohio, which doesn't see eye to eye with Team Kasich on many matters, said that with August’s loss, Ohio has only added 32,500 jobs (0.6 percent) in the last 12 months. Moreover, between August 2011 and August 2012, the job-growth rate of 1.2 percent was more than double what it is now.
In order to recover the jobs lost since the start of the recession the state would need to add another 217,600, without considering jobs needed to match population growth. Since the recovery began more than four years ago the state has added only 157,400, PMO reported.
Gov. Kasich has embraced the assessment, argued mostly by his staff, friendly Republican legislators who helped birth the governor's secret nonprofit development group and national news personalities found almost exclusively at Fox News, which for years following his exit from Congress employed the glib governor as a political talk show host, that through his leadership alone Ohio was experiencing a "miracle" turnaround from Kasich's predecessor, Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat.
Gov. Strickland was run over by the Great Recession, but his management decisions in the face of massive job losses that only a couple of states weathered started a turnaround that was well under way when Kasich took office in January of 2011.
When Strickland was elected governor in 2006, Ohio was well on its way to losing jobs and economic vitality. Unemployment went from 5.3 percent at the start of Strickland's term to plateauing for more than six months at 10.6 percent. By the time Strickland left office, Ohio's jobless rate dipped to around nine percent when Kasich took over.
Strickland claimed Ohio couldn't operate independently from the national economy. Kasich said he wouldn't have lost the jobs Strickland lost had he been governor during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Kasich rolled into the governor's office full of promises of how he would remove the state from the ditch Strickland had driven it into.
JobsOhio, Kasich's pet job creation project, which has come under relentless fire from Democrats and Kasich's Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald of Cleveland for being secret and unaccountable to the public for the taxpayer dollars used to get it started and for the billions that will come to it for decades more.
FitzGerald, running his first statewide campaign, didn't let the BLS statistics age too long before he pounded on Kasich's poor performance.
"Month by month, the signs are clear that Governor Kasich has squandered the economic recovery he inherited more than two years ago," he said in an email to media.. "The Governor’s so-called “Ohio Miracle” has morphed into a nightmare, with Ohio shedding 8,200 jobs as our unemployment ticked up to match the national rate for the first time in nearly three years. This report is disturbing, and as a greater percentage of Ohioans give up looking for work than at any point in the past 30 years, it’s apparent to everyone but John Kasich that we’re headed in the wrong direction."
Instead of fighting to put the middle class back to work, FitzGerald accused Gov. Kasich of doubling down on "his same policies of handouts favoring the wealthy and well connected. We can do better."
Kasich's re-election viability is resting on whether JobsOhio can deliver, as promised, or whether it will become a political anchor that eventually drags him down in the eyes of hard working Ohioans who struggle to find work under this governor and who fear further reprisals from Ohio and Washington Republicans who are dead set on downsizing their unemployment benefits, the amount of food they can purchase with food stamps and, in Ohio, raising the sales tax to subsidize income tax cuts Kasich and company has doled out to the state's wealthiest individuals and corporations.
The last respected pollster who polled Ohio voters on Kasich and his bid for a second term, which many say will turn his attention to running for president in 2016 if voters election him for a second and final term next year, showed the feisty and often irritated governor is losing to the widely unheard of FitzGerald by three percentage points.
While Kasich challenged the reliability and respectability of the polling firm [Pubic Policy Polling] at a media event, the message is that for all his programmatic razzle-dazzle, for all his claims of doing things differently than ever before, Ohioans have not become apostles for his production on the jobs front.
Kasich knew the coming campaign with Democrats and FitzGerald would be a battle over perception and production. What has added more fuel to the political fire is the announcement this week by Charlie Earl, a Republican and former House Member turned Libertarian, that he's in the race for governor. What Team Kasich knows all too well is that Kasich, a chief lieutenant for former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, won his race against Strickland by only 77,127 votes statewide or two percentage points.
Any spoiler like Earl who has no chance of winning but who can siphon off precious votes from Kasich's base represents a threat to a final four-year term for Gov. Kasich. As important is the notion that Ohio voters, who if convinced that Kasich's proclamations of job creation were boasting without real backing, could turn sour on the governor just when he needs his voter base to fall in and close ranks to prevent losing a tight race next year instead of winning one as he did in 2010.
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