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.

1990
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%

2016
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.



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