The Real Makeup of the Columbus Economy

Over the years, there have been endless claims about how the Columbus economy is dominated by jobs related to state government and OSU. These claims are usually made from other Ohioans complaining that Columbus has an unfair advantage and is mooching public dollars from the rest of the state to prop up the economy.

Let’s first address two points made: 1. That the number of government jobs is far above what they are in all other major Ohio cities, and 2. That overall, government jobs are becoming a larger slice of the metro economy.

The first claim is easy to look into. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, produces numbers every single month on job industry numbers by metro area. The most recent numbers are from June 2016.
Here are the total government jobs for Ohio’s largest cities.

Columbus: 162,600
Cleveland: 138,800
Cincinnati: 124,200
Dayton: 62,300
Toledo: 44,800
Akron: 40,600

So as to the first claim, that the total of government jobs in Columbus is higher than the other cities, that is true. As the state capital, this is no surprise. However, how dependent on government jobs is Columbus really versus those other cities? To find out, you have to divide government jobs by all total jobs within the metro. In June 2016, here was the percentage of the total.

Dayton: 16.17%
Columbus: 15.30%
Toledo: 14.21%
Cleveland: 12.90%
Akron: 11.84%
Cincinnati: 11.43%

Interestingly enough, Columbus is not the top government-dependent city. That spot goes to Dayton.

Now onto the 2nd claim- that Columbus is increasingly reliant on those government jobs. Let’s look at the % of total jobs that government jobs made up going back to 1990. The figures are for June of each year given.

1990: 17.97%
1995: 17.25%
2000: 15.97%
2005: 17.18%
2010: 17.81%
2015: 15.34%
2016: 15.30%

So it does not appear that Columbus has become more or less dependent on government jobs over the last 26 years. Indeed, if there is any pattern at all, it appears that during economic downturns, the number of government jobs increase, and during periods of stability/recovery, government jobs decline. The early 1990s and late 2000s had high levels of governments jobs, both periods of recession. In June 2016, nearly 85% of the local economy was not government-related, not statistically much different than other Ohio cities.

Finally, let’s look at how total government jobs have changed since the beginning of this decade, 2010, by Ohio city. The figures are for June 2010 and June 2016.

Toledo: +2.75%
Columbus: -0.91%
Cleveland: -1.56%
Cincinnati: -3.72%
Dayton: -4.30%
Akron: -10.38%

All cities except Toledo have seen declines.

So that brings us to the actual makeup of the Columbus metro economy. What are the industries that most people work for? What are the industries that have the greatest % of the total jobs? Let’s compare June 1990 and June 2016.

Trade/Transportation/Utilities: 20.51%
Government: 17.97%
Manufacturing: 13.49%
Professional and Business Services: 11.46%
Health and Education: 9.41%
Leisure and Hospitality: 8.63%
Financial Activities: 8.26%
Mining/Logging/Construction: 4.30%
Other Services: 3.46%
Information: 2.51%

Trade/Transportation/Utilities: 18.37%
Professional and Business Services: 17.11%
Government: 15.30%
Health and Education: 14.43%
Leisure and Hospitality: 10.89%
Financial Activities: 7.63%
Manufacturing: 6.84%
Other Services: 4.10%
Mining/Logging/Construction: 3.75%
Information: 1.57%

If anything, Columbus’ economy is actually more diverse in 2016 than it was in 1990, not less.

Housing Trends of Columbus

***Originally Posted May 23, 2014, updated with 2014 data 9/18/2015 and again on 5/29/2016 with 2015 data***

I posted a graph recently showing housing permits for Franklin County to show how construction was trending. Today, I found more long-term data for both the city and county that continue to show some interesting trends.

First, let’s look at just the city of Columbus.

The chart above goes back through the mid-1990s. The first thing to notice is the housing boom from 1999-2002. Both single-family and multi-family construction was booming. The very good economic conditions, or seemingly good ones, during the 1999-2000 period is probably most responsible for this. What’s most interesting is that the boom seemed to last through at least part of the mild recession experienced in 2001-2002. After that, housing of both types started to decline through the late 2000s. This shows that construction in the city began to decline as early as 2002-2003, before the peak of the general housing boom in the mid-2000s.

Another interesting fact is at the end of the period. Multi-family units have recovered and are back in boom territory. This boom, however, is much different than the one that occurred more than a decade ago, as shown by the below chart.

During the 1999-2002 housing boom, multi-family housing averaged 59.3% of all the units constructed. In the current boom, which began in 2012, multi-family housing has averaged 81.4% of all the units constructed. The average difference between the types 1999-2002 was just 18.6 points. In the current boom, the difference is almost 63 points! In that regard, there really is no comparison between the housing boom a decade ago and the current one. Multi-family construction is in MUCH higher relative demand now than it was at any time in the last 20 years, including during the last housing boom.

But what does this tell us about where the housing is actually being constructed? Well, for that, we have to look at the entirety of Franklin County. Is the county also seeing a similar multi-family boom, or has single-family construction recovered there more than in the city?

This chart, in some aspects, is the opposite of the one for the city. While in the city, multi-family units consistently outnumbered single-family, the opposite is true for the county as a whole. This is likely because the county takes into account all the suburban areas, most of which are dominated by single-family housing. In only a few instances did multi-family housing units outnumber single-family before 2010. After 2010, it’s clear that the multi-family boom is hitting the rest of the county and not just Columbus itself. This may actually represent an even greater shift in housing construction. While it appeared that single-family construction was gradually rising since 2011, it once again fell off some in 2015 while multi-family went up. It appears that the new reality is, at least for now, holding steady.

Here’s the % of total chart for the county.

So it’s also clear that the county is seeing most of its construction in recent years be multi-family units.

Cool Link of the Day: Urb-I Urban Ideas

I saw this site mentioned on the CityLab site awhile back and thought it was a very cool idea. The site highlights how cities are transforming public spaces and making car-centric areas much more pedestrian, bike and transit friendly. Since I found the site, I have been lucky enough to become a regular contributor working to help make the site even better. The great thing is that anyone can send in before and after photos from their own cities of public space transformations. Take a look: The site covers cities across the world.

Columbus has several examples that I have added, but the photos are not yet updated on the site’s map. Until they are, here is a sneak peek:

Civic Center Drive

West Town Street

Columbus Commons

Top Housing Markets of 2015

The 2015 housing market was one of the strongest since before the recession, and 2016 looks to do even better. An ongoing problem, especially within the more urban markets, is a historically low inventory of available homes for sale. This has been a problem for several years now, as construction has failed to match demand.

That lack of inventory really shows up in the yearly % change chart. Few urban markets have increased year over year, as they have a much more limited supply of housing, even as demand for urban housing has increased.

Let’s see how this impacted prices.

While urban markets were not necessarily the most expensive compared to suburban, more of them were generally towards the top half of price increases last year.

2015 Metro Area Population Estimates and Peer Comparison

As promised, here is the information for the Columbus metro, its national peers and major Midwest metros.

2015 Metro Population Estimates
Chicago, IL: 9,551,031
Detroit, MI: 4,302,043
Minneapolis, MN: 3,524,583
St. Louis, MO: 2,811,588
Charlotte, NC: 2,426,363
Portland, OR: 2,389,228
Orlando, FL: 2,387,138
San Antonio, TX: 2,384,075
Pittsburgh, PA: 2,353,045
Sacramento, CA: 2,274,194
Cincinnati: 2,157,719
Las Vegas, NV: 2,114,801
Kansas City, MO: 2,087,471
Cleveland: 2,060,810
Columbus: 2,021,632
Austin, TX: 2,000,860
Indianapolis: 1,988,817
San Jose, CA: 1,976,836
Nashville, TN: 1,830,345
Virginia Beach, VA: 1,724,876
Providence, RI: 1,613,070
Milwaukee, WI: 1,575,747
Grand Rapids, MI: 1,038,583
Omaha, NE: 915,312
Dayton: 800,909
Akron: 704,243
Toledo: 605,956
Youngstown: 549,885

Components of Metro Area Population Change

As you can see, while Columbus has a middle of the road birth rate for its peers, its relatively low death rate means that it manages to be near the top of the its peer group in natural growth.

It seems that while international migration is competitive with peers in the Columbus metro, domestic migration would need to improve to truly be at the upper peer level. At the very least, it is positive.