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Ohio’s Business Cycle

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has designated December 2007 as the starting point of the current recession. However, the recession referred to is the nation’s as a whole—individual states vary with respect to the timing of their business cycles as well as in the severity of their recessions. For instance, according to a 2006 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia (“What a New Set of Indexes Tells Us about State and National Business Cycles,”) about only half of the states experienced all four of the national recessions that occurred between 1979 and 2006.

To see how Ohio’s business cycle compares to those of other states and the nation, we examine the state coincident indexes published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. These indexes combine nonfarm employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate, and real wages and salaries into a composite measure of economic activity.

Several patterns stand out when comparing Ohio’s coincident index and the national index. First, Ohio’s index declined during the five national recessionary periods that have occurred since the late 1970s, including the current recession. Second, Ohio’s index falls more sharply and for a longer period of time during recessionary periods than the national index. This likely reflects the fact that Ohio has a larger share of cyclically sensitive industries, such as manufacturing, compared to the nation as a whole. Third, while the coincident index for Ohio generally tracks the national index between the early 1980s and the early part of this decade, the indexes diverge in the recovery cycle after the 2001 recession. Ohio’s economy has clearly underperformed the national economy, as Ohio generated particularly weak employment growth over this period.

Economic Activity Index: January 1979-November 2008

A closer look at more recent levels of the indexes reveals slightly different patterns across states heading into the current recession. Ohio’s economy appeared to weaken earlier than those of Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Ohio’s economy peaked in June 2007 and declined moderately between June 2007 and March of 2008. Kentucky’ sand Pennsylvania’s economic activity continued to expand through early 2008. In early 2008, all three states’ economic activity began to fall at a sharper rate. As of November of 2008, Ohio’s index had declined 3.9 percent from its peak, while Kentucky’s and Pennsylvania’s had fallen 2.8 percent and 5.4 percent from theirs, respectively. It is interesting to note that the national coincident index did not turn down until August 2008. This delay relative to Fourth District states reflects the fact that real GDP growth in the first two quarters of 2008 was still positive.

Economic Activity Index: January 2007-November 2008

Comparing the dates of the peaks and troughs of Ohio’s business cycle with those of the nation(NBER) shows that Ohio has typically entered periods of declining economic activity earlier than the nation and that the declines have persisted longer. On average, Ohio’s economic activity slowed down 5.5 months prior to the typical national recession and lasted 1.3 months longer. When compared to the Philly Fed’s coincident index for the nation, Ohio enters periods of declining economic activity even earlier (7.3 months) than the nation. While Ohio’s coincident index is subject to revision, a peak date of June 2007 for the current cycle is not out of the question, based upon previous business cycle data.

Business Cycle Peaks and Troughs

  Ohio (Philly Fed Index) Nation (Philly Fed Index) Nation (NBER)
Cycle Peak Trough Peak Trough Peak Trough
1 May 1979 August 1980 March 1980 July 1980 January 1980 July 1980
2 March 1981 November 1982 August 1981 November 1982 July 1981 November 1982
3 June 1990 May 1991 September 1990 April 1991 July 1990 March 1991
4 June 2000 January 2002 May 2001 January 2002 March 2001 November 2001
5 June 2007 June 2008 December 2007

Source: The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

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