The Dayton Daily News reports that more than one-third of the state's job losses were in the manufacturing sector during the recession and its aftermath. But manufacturing jobs are returning, and industry payrolls are growing again.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show that in 2011, Ohio had about 52 out of 88 counties whose economies were heavily dependent on manufacturing. Counties are dependent on the manufacturing industry if 20 percent or more of average annual earnings come from the sector.
Nationally, only Indiana had more counties dependent on the sector.
Ohio also had more workers — 638,400 — in manufacturing in 2011 than all but California and Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"We are (very) good at it, and you can't build an economy on something you are bad at," Edward Hill, dean of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, told the newspaper. "We are within 600 miles of 60 percent of the nation's market, which means we have a natural advantage for manufacturing and logistics."
U.S. manufacturing employment has trended downward since peaking in 1979, and Ohio even lost jobs in the mid-2000s while the country gained them. But manufacturing began making a comeback in Ohio after the recession ended in December 2009. Between 2010 and 2011, Ohio gained 49,616 net jobs, and 17,388 — 35 percent — were in manufacturing, according to Cleveland economic research analyst George Zeller.
"Manufacturing is driving the Ohio recovery, particularly since we have such an intense concentration" of jobs in the sector, Zeller said. "Manufacturing is not only important for its high-wage jobs for Ohio workers, but it is also extremely important because of its large ripple effect on the rest of the economy."
Experts say U.S. manufacturing is in the midst of a revival because fewer companies are outsourcing jobs to Asia because of rising labor costs in China and other countries. Some companies are bringing jobs back to the states because of cheaper production costs. Auto sales have rebounded, and the dollar's weakness means American-made goods are cheaper in international markets.