COLUMBUS, Ohio - Republicans fixed the Ohio economy. No, wait, it was the Democrats.
After watching the recent national conventions, Ohio voters may have been left perplexed. Onlookers heard conflicting messages from the parties' headliners -- beginning with Gov. John Kasich of the GOP and then the Democrat he defeated in 2010, Ted Strickland -- on whose policies contributed more to the state's improving jobs picture.
On Labor Day in Toledo, President Barack Obama said Kasich's good-news speech at the Republican convention didn't seem to jibe with the GOP story line that the president had wrecked the economy and it was time to elect Mitt Romney.
As voters weigh their decision in a race that's about "jobs, jobs, jobs," the back-and-forth warrants a look at a few of the actual numbers.
Ohio's unemployment rate, which measures the percent of the labor force that's unemployed and looking, has been falling pretty steadily since the end of the Great Recession in February 2010, according to figures from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Obama and Strickland were in office then. The state pattern closely follows the national trend line. At its worst, under Strickland and Obama and during the recession, Ohio joblessness was above the national average. Today's figure is better than the nation's.
Here's a look at key shifts:
Nov. 2006 (Strickland elected): 5.4%
Nov. 2008 (Obama elected): 7.6%
July 2009 (height of recession): 10.6%
Nov. 2010 (Kasich elected): 9.4%
July 2012: 7.2%
The unemployment, or joblessness, rate has the quirk of reflecting only those people who are looking for work. Those who give up the hunt or choose not to hold paying jobs aren't counted -- which can give a skewed picture during an economic recovery.
Private sector job gains and losses are another way to measure how things are going. The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps track of jobs lost from contracting and closing businesses, compared to jobs gained from new or expanding businesses. The figures don't account for roughly 4,400 fewer jobs since 2011 in Ohio's government sector.
Here are recent figures:
So what of the auto industry? The parties' disagreements over whether the federal government should have offered General Motors and Chrysler a way out of bankruptcy in 2009 are philosophical, but it's worth a look at the numbers.
According to a 2010 analysis by the Columbus-based Center for Automotive Research, the bailout avoided personal income losses of more than $96 billion nationally, and more than 1.4 million net jobs losses in 2009 and 2010. As of July, taxpayers were owed $44.5 billion in auto industry government loans, according to the Troubled Asset Relief Program's inspector general.
These Ohio figures reflect jobs in the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts industries, not at auto dealerships nor community businesses boosted by local plants:
January 2006: 121,000
January 2008: 99,800
January 2009: 73,500
January 2010: 71,000
January 2011: 75,200
January 2010: 75,900
Though many areas have shown improvement, Ohio's total labor force has retracted even as unemployment has fallen. That can be explained in small part by a higher percentage of Ohioans who are working more than one job.
Percentages of multiple jobholders, most of whom are women:
2009: 5.9 percent
2010: 5.7 percent
2011: 6 percent
At the same time, per capita personal income in Ohio is on the rise, according to Ohio Department of Development figures:
Average wages generally are also up, according to BLS data:
Of course, volumes of economic information exist for evaluating how a candidate's or a party's favored policy may or may not have affected the state's overall outlook.
Political observers ultimately may look most closely at more subjective measures, such as whether people are feeling optimistic or whether they think the economy's going in the right direction.
A notable 90 percent of likely Ohio voters in a Quinnipiac University poll released last month said the economic was very or extremely important to them. Putting their favored candidate aside, they were asked whether Obama or Romney would do a better job on the economy. In the ultimate swing state, the result was a 47 percent-to-47 percent tie.
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