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Dayton's functional unemployment rate is third highest in the nation, report finds

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Even though the Dayton metro area saw job growth in 2022, it had the third highest “functional-unemployment” rate in the nation, according to a report released by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity. The DC-based thin tank defines functionally employed as the jobless, plus those seeking but unable to find full-time employment that pays above the poverty line. WYSO’s Ngozi Cole talked to Eugene Ludwig, an economist at the institute about these numbers.

(Transcript edited lightly for length and clarity.)

Eugene Ludwig: Dayton unemployment or at least functional unemployment is around 31%. Now, if you take functional unemployment and you compare it around the United States, the difference between Dayton and the best city, which I believe is in Florida, you’ll find that the rate is three times worse in Dayton than in a place like Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Ngozi Cole: In your report, you said manufacturing jobs were replaced by hospitality and retail, which drives this ‘functional unemployment’. Can you explain this?

Eugene Ludwig: What happened with Dayton was that many industrial cities in the central part of the United States, previously union blue collar jobs were lost.Then Dayton had gotten a number of service jobs and jobs in hospitality and healthcare etc, and then got hit again by the pandemic. It recovered somewhat, but it hasn’t recovered in a way like other cities have.

Ngozi Cole: And what does this mean for Dayton’s recovering economy?

Eugene Ludwig: I know that what we've seen in the data in Dayton is the fact that for those people who are actually working, there is a disproportionately large number of folks who are working part time, and not full time, even though they may want full time employment.

Secondly, we've learned that the actual salaries of a disproportionately large number of people in Dayton actually are below the U.S. poverty line and so it's tough times in Dayton. So what is most  needed around the country generally, but certainly in Dayton are more full-time, living wage jobs. If people would like to work part time, that's fine, but then still they ought to be on a living wage job scale and that isn’t true for too many people in Dayton. But hopefully the people in the Dayton community will work to turn that around.

Ngozi Cole is the Business and Economics Reporter for WYSO. She graduated with honors from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York and is a 2022 Pulitzer Center Post-Graduate Reporting Fellow. Ngozi is from Freetown, Sierra Leone.