DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Like many areas of the country, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the Miami Valley economy with more than 57,000 jobs disappearing by April 2020; however, those numbers are looking better.
According to July 2023 projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Dayton area gained back all of the jobs lost, plus more. Julie Sullivan, the Executive Vice President of the Dayton Development Coalition, said companies made the best of a bad situation.
“There were opportunities that presented themselves. And as a result of those types of things, it’s an opportunity for capital investment and job creation. And I think our region fared particularly well in capturing those opportunities. We ended up with two back-to-back record setting years in terms of economic projects, and the associated capital investment and jobs that went with it,” Sullivan explained.
Sullivan also said the region has not seen employment levels this high in 15 years. The latest payroll data shows more than 62,000 jobs were added to the Dayton area since April 2020, and more than 9,000 were added since July 2022.
Stephanie Keinath from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce said this is a testament to the work being done by state and local partners to make the Miami Valley more attractive for companies.
“We certainly represent a market that is affordable, that does have some great resources when it comes to workforce. We’ve got a really robust higher ed and education talent pipeline. And so those companies come here knowing that it’s going to be easier for them to find some of that talent that they need than other places in the country,” Keinath said.
Despite a recovered job market, people are still dealing with high prices and high inflation. Jeff Haymond, a Professor of Economics at Cedarville University, said wages are still not keeping up with the rate of inflation.
“What we’ve seen is that as a whole since the pandemic started, we’ve lost quite a lot of purchasing power. Real wages are still down. We are not back to where we were before the pandemic started,” Haymond explained.
Haymond said a strong job market is still a good indicator of economic health, and it can help with inflation.
“We don’t need to lose jobs, in other words, to get inflation down. In fact, I think it’s just the opposite. The more people that are working, the more people are producing additional goods and services will tend to let the amount of money that the government has pumped into the economy go a little bit farther and that will bring inflation down,” Haymond said.
Both the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Development Corporation said their focus is to keep the momentum going. Their working with state and local partners to train the next generation of workers, and keep people wanting to stay in the region.