“That's a good sign for somebody looking for a job. It means people are working here in the United States,” he said.
Despite this national growth, however, the Campaign to Protect Ohio's Future has released a statement claiming that new data released by the Census Bureau show Ohio poverty rates have increased from 11.6 percent in 2004 to 12.3 percent in 2005.
The report states the number of Ohioans in poverty has grown by 293,000 since 2002. Additionally, both Cleveland and Cincinnati are named to the list of top 10 poorest cities in America.
“Unfortunately the U.S. Congress and the Ohio Legislature are more focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy than on the needs of low-wage working families,” said John Corlett, co-chair of the Campaign to Protect Ohio's Future, and senior fellow at the Center for Community Solutions.
The Campaign to Protect Ohio's Future is a statewide coalition of Ohio organizations that describes its goal as “protecting Ohio's most vulnerable citizens by restoring or adequately funding vital services through a responsible state budget.”
According to current census data found at www.census.gov, Scioto County continues to measure far below state and national averages. Local population has dropped more than 2,500 people in the past five years, and the last recorded number of individuals living in poverty in Scioto County is listed at 17.3 percent in 2003, compared to 10.6 percent statewide that same year.
Unemployment rates show a similar trend also: 4.7 percent nationally, 5.8 percent statewide, and 7.8 percent in Scioto County.
However, according to Scioto County Community Action Planner Director Bill Thacker, those numbers do not reflect unemployed workers not in the system, or whose benefits have expired, and actual figures are closer to 11 percent by his estimation.
“Our official rates have dropped significantly, but we make a bit of progress and then take another step back,” said Thacker. “(Wal-Mart and dollar stores) might bring money and jobs to our area, but not the kind that we need.”
Thacker adds that programs designed to help the economy have been declining over the past five years, and the best way to rebuild the community is through education and training that prepares workers for better-paying jobs.
Despite unflattering census data, Portsmouth still placed second on a March 2004 list of the top five “Best Metro Area to Earn and Spend Your Paycheck”; produced by the www.salary.com web site by measuring wages against cost of living in 316 metro areas.
“Things like Salary.com only read certain factors, so they miss the bird's eye view of things,” explained Chip Poirot, associate professor of economics at Shawnee State University. “It also ignores a lot of things, such as the ability to get a middle-class salary, and the overall quality life, services, restaurants and cultural events.”
Poirot defines the problem as deindustrialization - when all the well-paying jobs disappear.
“You can't reverse deindustrialization, but you can look at what's going well in Portsmouth, like the A-Plant, the hospital and the university, and we should be encouraging them to create an environment to support new businesses.”
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.