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Labor Day Report Finds A Growing Economy, But Unequal Wage Growth

Lewis Wallace
WYSO/data from Policy Matters Ohio

This Labor Day we take a look at the economy in our state, and there has been some good news: unemployment is down to pre-Recession levels, with Ohio’s rate hitting 5 percent in July. But there are some negative trends, too: Wage growth hasn’t nearly kept up with growing productivity in the economy—last year, wages in the state ticked down to a median of $16.05 per hour, lagging just behind the national median.

“The economy’s growing but all of the gains of that economy are going to the top one percent, or they’re going somewhere other than into the average family’s pockets,” says Amy Hanauer, Executive Director of Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning think tank.

Hanauer says there’s also a major racial disparity in wages and employment.

“We really see just a wider wage disparity than we used to, and an economy that’s not really being inclusive and not really working for all of us,” she says.

In 1979, black workers earned about 90 cents on a white workers’ dollar. Now that’s down to 75 cents on the dollar, or a median wage of $12.81 an hour last year for African-Americans.

Women are faring better than they have in the past, but the numbers remain dismal, with the median wage for a woman at 82 percent of men’s wages.

And, the number of jobs in the state still hasn’t caught up with pre-Recession numbers—meaning even though unemployment is down, that can partially be attributed to people leaving the workforce. Those stats put Ohio well behind the nation, which has recovered the jobs lost during the Recession and begun to add new jobs.

Read the full report here.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.

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