Report Highlights Trends Both Encouraging—And Concerning—For NEO Economy

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A new report by a local development organization says Northeast Ohio's economy is becoming more diverse. The report's author, says trends behind that evolution are both encouraging and concerning.

Team NEO's latest quarterly economic report says Northeast Ohio’s economic output has grown about 50 percent since 1990. That's despite a steep decline in manufacturing jobs over that same period.

“What I think a lot of people don't realize is that that decline in manufacturing has been offset by gains in other sectors,” said Jacob Duritsky, a researcher who authored the report for the nonprofit Team NEO. The biggest job gains were in healthcare, followed by “professional, scientific, technical services”—a category that includes everything from accountants to engineers.

He says the growth in non-manufacturing industries is encouraging, but the region has lagged behind the nation as a whole. While Northeast Ohio's economy has grown by about half since 1990, the U.S. economy has more than tripled during that same period. According to the report, the healthcare industry led the pack, employing almost 130,000 more people today than in 1990. Jobs in professional, science and tech fields were also up.

Duritsky said it's a sign that the region is less dependent on manufacturing, and that’s a good thing—more recession proof and all. But he also said manufacturers are still vitally important: they currently generate about a fifth of the region's economic output, and they're hiring.

“We've got a lot of people projected to retire in the next 5-10 years" he said, and those manufacturing roles that require math and computer skills will be especially in demand. But because of automation, there will be fewer of them. While manufacturing productivity is expected to increase over the next decade, actual jobs are projected to fall about 11 percent. "We can do a lot more with less people."

And while that squeeze may hurt some workers, Duritsky said, having the technology and infrastructure and workforce that can do more with less is ultimately necessary for Northeast Ohio to stay competitive in a global economy.

Here are some other key stats from Team NEO's report:

  • Total employment is at 1.88 million, up about 1,500 jobs from a year ago
  • The services sector has added more than 5,400 jobs since Q1 2016
  • GRP (gross regional product) is projected to reach $236 billion in 2017 (the greatest percentage of growth (2.7 percent) since 2011
  • The unemployment rate increased year-over-year, from 6.7 percent in Q1 2017, from 6 percent in Q1 2016

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