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What's Ahead For Ohio's Economy In 2019?

United Soybean Board

The year is winding down with much of the Ohio economy still humming, and some experts say 2019 could also bring good economic news to other parts of the state. Despite trends of job growth and lowering unemployment, the state still faces numerous challenges.

The Ohio State University economics professor Mark Partridge says he expects Central Ohio’s economic growth to continue next year.

“I think the key thing to look at that is that Central Ohio takes its key from the national economy in that it has a diversified economy,” Partridge says. “By that, I mean it has a lot of different industries. It has finance, retail, government, all sorts of industries. It’s more diversified than the rest of the state which is more manufacturing oriented.”

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reports that overall state unemployment in November remained at 4.6 percent. The rate in Franklin County was even lower, at 3.8 percent. 

Both are still higher than the national average of 3.7 percent.

Economist and owner of Regionomics, Bill Lafayette says he sees some challenges from the unemployment numbers in Central Ohio.

“I think most of the problem seems to be that the business service sector, which is one of the key sectors of our economy, is not growing,” Lafayette says. “I think that’s primarily due to a downturn in temporary employment.”

Lafayette says employers who drug-test find more potential employees using illegal drugs.

“The problem really becomes that employers who don’t find the right workers for their positions are less efficient, less profitable, and that hurts the overall economy,” Lafayette says.

Federal tax cuts approved by Congress were supposed to help the economy by bringing more jobs and higher pay for workers But Partridge says it’s still a wait-and-see situation.

“Right now it’s too early to say will it have its long term effects that the proponents said or its opponents suggested, but probably we’ll still get the sugar high, money coming into the economy,” Partridge says.

The housing market this year took a dip in Central Ohio as inventory levels decreased, but it remains a growing slice of the economic pie. Economist and Regionomics founder Bill Lafayette says the Franklin County population continues to grow at a rate of 1.2 percent. He thinks there’s every indication it will continue.

“Builders are having a hard time meeting demand,” Lafayette says. “So prices should continue to increase, which creates concerns over the availability for affordable housing for people who don’t make as much money.”

The ongoing trade battle between the U.S. and China regarding soybean tariffs could also cause Ohio farmers some more headaches.

“If we do not get a trade deal with China, and China reacts and retaliates and continues to retaliate against the United States, it could be another bumpy year for Ohio’s farmers in soybeans and corn,” Partridge says.

Partridge says it’s difficult to say if lingering tariffs on imported steel will hurt more manufacturing jobs in the state.

“I think we’re going to probably see negative effects, but probably not as large as 30 years ago when manufacturing had a much larger presence in the state,” Partridge says.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.