New National Report Faults China for U.S. Manufacturing Job Loss. What’s This Mean for Ashtabula County?

Ohio, and every state in the nation, has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs since 2001. China is to blame, according to a recently released national economic policy study. Ohio lost 106,400 jobs alone, ranking the state eighth in the nation. Every congressional district in Ohio lost thousands of jobs, but Rep. Dave Joyce’s, R-Ohio, district was hit hardest with about 9,000 job losses. The 14th District includes Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties and parts of Cuyahoga, Portage, Summit and Trumbull counties.

The report, produced by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, says that wages of American workers have also suffered due to the competition with cheap Chinese labor. The report analyzed data by Congressional districts nationwide. One major conclusion of the study is that the key to making Chinese exports cheap is currency manipulation. Chinese exports are cheaper because China keeps its currency artificially low.

So what does all this mean to Ashtabula County? Manufacturing is the most powerful driving industry in Ashtabula County. It’s been that way since the 1950s. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, manufacturing operations employed 6,545 people in 2013 in Ashtabula County, compared to 8,650 in 2004. That is a loss of 2,105 manufacturing jobs in the last decade, representing a 24.3% decline in manufacturing in the county. Upon closer analysis, we find that the lion’s share of this loss (1,778 of the 2,105 jobs) occurred during the recession. Since 2009, 443 manufacturing jobs have been added in Ashtabula County. The Growth Partnership and its development partners are working hard to see that upward trend continue in the future.

In 2004, manufacturing represented 25.7% of total jobs (33,703) in the county. In 2013, manufacturing’s share of total county jobs was 21.7% of the total (30,177), representing a share drop of 4%. Nationally and in Ohio, manufacturing’s share of total jobs has been on the decline for at least the past 3 decades. Even with its 4% share loss in 2004-2013, Ashtabula County’s manufacturing job share is well above the vast majority of Ohio counties. In that respect, Ashtabula County remains very competitive as a manufacturing location.

Another reality must be considered here. More manufacturing jobs are returning to the U.S. as U.S. manufacturers bring off-shored jobs home. It is also true that foreign-owned manufacturing companies are investing significantly in the U.S. Both trends are supported by recent research and news articles, such as the reports in this Forbes Magazine article.

Download the Economic Policy Institute article here: EPI – China Trade Job Losses – 12-11-14. It is an interesting and worthwhile read.

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