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Federal Reserve: Ohio Wages Poised For Growth

Marla Pollitt

A new report from the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank shows average wages in Ohio fell by three and half percent between 2007 and 2013. But, as employment makes  gains economists say more workers will begin to see pay raises. 

For the past seven and half years, Columbus resident Robbie Yohn  has worked fulltime in the city's hospitality industry.  He says his personal  finances are slowly improving.

"By working very hard actually and trying to save as much as I can," says Yohn.

Yohn takes the bus to work.  He's  paying debt and buying necessities with his income.  Earlier this year he got a bump in pay.

"I have had a recent raise, about 5 months ago."

Yohn is not alone. Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank  president, Loretta Mester , says job growth in Ohio is "well above"  the pace set during the last economic expansion.  And more job growth often helps boost employee paychecks.

"We're now beginning to see signs that wage growth is picking up," says Mester.

Mester says wage growth lags  job expansion.  She says wages accelerate only after  sustained job growth.   While Ohio's job growth trails  other states, there's been enough of an improvement to pressure employers to give raises.

K'Vona Brown has worked the same job at a big box retailer in Northeast Columbus for the past five years.  She moved to Columbus from Toledo to find fulltime work.  

"Working hard just like any other person would to get to where I need to be in life. I'm a single parent so I have to do what I have to do to survive as far as for me and my child. Like I said, I'm in a foreign city because I'm not from here so I have to make sure I get to wherever the economy is growing. If it's not growing I have to move on and move forward," says Brown.

Brown says she thinks the economy is getting better.  She's received a promotion and pay raise since starting her retail job. Mester says Brown's job experience  is more common in Central Ohio than in other parts of the state.

"The Columbus Metro area is generally faring better than other regions in the state.  As you know, Columbus benefits greatly from a highly educated workforce and a diversified industry base," says Mester. 

Mester adds the city's economy is in a stronger position for sustained growth.  Brooke Sciullo of the east side finished grad school earlier this year and quickly found fulltime work.

"Yeah, I'm a social worker,  I feel I had a pretty easy time finding work when I got out of school."  
Sciullo helps put together activities  and events for public housing residents.  She describes  social work as a 'stable' field. She reasons people are always going to need help.  But, she says some of her friends are having a tougher time in the current job market," says Sciullo.

"I mean it seems like it's been pretty difficult for a lot of people. A lot of people that I know have had to move home with family in order to make sure they had stable housing while out looking for employment, but yeah," says Sciullo.

The Cleveland  Fed expects more job and wage growth in Ohio in the coming months. Last year it says total compensation costs for employers rose 2-point 6 percent.