Ashtabula County has experienced only a very modest recovery from the Great Recession. Total employment in the county declined by 11% or by 3,418 jobs between 2001 and 2014. Since 2009, only 852 of these 3,418 lost jobs have been added back. Manufacturing jobs declined by 25% during 2001-2014, resulting in a 2,358-job loss in the sector. Since 2009, the county has experienced a loss of 801 manufacturing jobs.
While Ashtabula County’s unemployment rate has dropped from 14% in March 2010 to 7.7% in January 2016, this drop is fully accounted for by the 4,000 workers leaving the county’s workforce during 2010-2016. This shrinkage of the resident workforce and the outmigration of working age people from the county have added greatly to the county’s tight labor market with a very limited supply of employable workers available.
A sharp contrast exists in the demographic characteristics of Ashtabula County residents working inside and outside the county. Those working in the county are older (more age 55 and older) and have more moderate incomes, while those working outside the county tend to be younger ( in the 30-54 age group) with higher incomes.
Ashtabula County’s 2014 population was estimated at 99,175, with a loss of 2,322 people (2.2%) since 2010. Population losses have been the result of significant net outmigration, which has averaged 500 working age people per year since 2003. The county population is projected by state authorities to drop to 98,600 by 2040.
Despite the fact that many local employers have hired new workers in the past year, we see several employers now (since January 2016) reducing their employment rolls incrementally due to concerns about the economy. We believe these employers sense a future economic downturn based upon larger national and global events.
Local employers rely on a wide variety of channels to find workers. This includes the Ohio Means Jobs website, other online services, job fairs, word of mouth through existing employees, local schools, advertising for high skilled and professional workers, and temporary agencies for general labor.
A large number of local employers continue to struggle in finding and keeping quality workers, especially general labor. Turnover is a major problem in the general labor category.
We foresee a growing reliance on immigrant workers, which is evidenced at several local employers, including Lake City Plating and Molded Fiber Glass Companies.