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Why is the Ohio economy stalling?

It is important for those in government to be forward-thinking and keep a positive outlook. It is also important for them to be realistic and honest about assessing challenges.

So, when the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announces the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the state went up last month — from 4.7% in April to 5% in May, it is important to heed the analysis of those who understand the Buckeye State economy may be stalling.

“May’s job numbers take Ohio below where we were in November 2020, when Ohio had 5,292,300 jobs. That means no progress toward recovery in six months,” said Michael Shields from Policy Matters Ohio. “Ohio’s recovery has slowed to a crawl, leaving out hundreds of thousands of Ohioans.”

That is a different tone from that presented by Tom Betti with Ohio Job and Family Services, who spoke with WCPO in Cincinnati. He said he was feeling positive about the jobs outlook.

“Overall, our outlook hasn’t changed,” Betti told the station. “We expect there to be gains and losses month to month, but the overall trend remains positive. We believe the economy is slowly strengthening, and the job market is improving.”

Which is it then? Slowly strengthening, or slowing to a crawl? Certainly the loss of 14,800 jobs in a month doesn’t sound like strength in the midst of what is supposed to be a rebound.

Perhaps Betti’s optimism is all for show, and the folks in Columbus are on top of the troubling numbers that cast doubt on our recovery. Perhaps they are preparing to help communities face a sluggish economy — and remembering that even before the pandemic, pockets of Ohio had not yet experienced the booming recovery we were told was happening elsewhere in the country.

If they are not, they should take a page out of Shields’ book and take an honest look at what is happening in our state before an even harsher reality forces them to open their eyes.

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