By Tom Blumer | Special to Ohio Watchdog
As the nation’s unemployment rate rose from 8.1 percent to 8.2 percent in May, Ohio‘s rate fell from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent, Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Ohio was one of 14 states where the unemployment rate fell. Eighteen others saw their rate rise, while it stayed the same in 18 others.
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 0.9 percent below the national average in May. It has only been that far below the national rate four times since 1976, the earliest year state data are available at the BLS’ website. Those months were way back in 1995, when Ohio’s rate differential was greater — January and April, at 1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively — and in 1977 — June and November — when the differentials were the same.
In December 2010, the month before Republican Gov. John Kasich took office, Ohio’s unemployment rate was 9.2 percent. It’s 1.9 points lower now, or 21 percent using straight division, an accomplishment exceeded by very few states. The nation’s unemployment rate has dropped during that time by 1.2 points, or 13 percent, and may be heading a few months of sustained increases.
Ohio’s improvement is part of a pattern of falling rates during that same time period in other “newly red” states, which, like Ohio, went from having a Democrat to a Republican governing the state after the 2010 election (or, in the case of Florida, a Republican replacing someone who might as well have been a Democrat):
- Oklahoma — 1.6 points (from 6.4 percent to 4.8 percent, a 25 percent drop);
- Michigan — 2.7 points (from 11.2 percent to 8.5 percent, a 24 percent drop);
- Florida — 2.5 points (from 11.1 percent to 8.6 percent, a 23 percent drop);
- Iowa — 1.1 points (from 6.2 percent to 5.1 percent, an 18 percent drop);
- Tennessee — 1.7 points (from 9.6 percent to 7.9 percent, an 18 percent drop);
- New Mexico — 1.1 points (from 7.8 percent to 6.7 percent, a 14 percent drop);
- Wisconsin — 1 point (from 7.8 percent to 6.8 percent, a 13 percent drop);
- Kansas — 0.9 points (from 7 percent to 6.1 percent, a 13 percent drop).
There are exceptions. In Pennsylvania, where a Republican governor took over from Democrat Ed Rendell in 2011, the rate has fallen from 8 percent to 7.4 percent. In New Jersey, where Chris Christie succeeded a Democratic governor in early 2010, the rate has barely fallen, and is still more than 9 percent.
And while there are several states with Democratic governors, notably Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Vermont and West Virginia, which have seen their unemployment rates go down by 1.5 or more points to values at or below the national average during that same December 2010 through May 2012 time period, it’s the Democratic Party-governed laggards, which stick out the most:
- California‘s rate has fallen 1.4 points, but is still a ridiculously high 10.8 percent.
- The unemployment rate in President Barack Obama‘s home state of Illinois has dropped by less than a point, and stands at 8.6 percent, higher than any of its Midwestern neighbors and even higher than Michigan, where the rate was 14 percent or higher from July through November 2009. Illinois steeply raised taxes last year, and residents looking for work are paying the price.
- Though New York has added a fair number of jobs, its unemployment rate has actually gone up from 8.3 percent to 8.6 percent.
- Though it has finally dropped to a still unacceptable 9.2 percent, the unemployment rate in North Carolina was more than 10 percent just four months ago.
- Rhode Island, where Gov. Lincoln Chafee is an independent but governs like a Democrat, the rate has dropped by only a half-point and is stuck at 11 percent, the highest in the nation.
Ohio under Kasich and the other “newly red” states above have balanced their budgets and erased large projected budget deficits without tax increases. If it weren’t for those “newly reds,” what little we’ve seen of a nationwide recovery in the past almost year and a half might not even exist.