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The Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area

Located in the geographic center of Ohio, the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is home to nearly 2 million people, dispersed across ten counties (Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Hocking, Licking, Madison, Morrow, Perry, Pickaway, and Union). The MSA has a significantly higher concentration of employment than the nation in two high-skilled, high-wage service industries: financial activities and professional and business services. This was true in 2007 and remained the case throughout the recession. In 2012, the share of workers in each of these industries surpassed the nation's share by 25 to 30 percent.

Columbus's employment is largely concentrated in different industries than the state as a whole. Looking at location quotients for Ohio and Columbus (which show how employment is concentrated in various industries relative to the nation), we can see that the proportion of the state's workforce that is employed in manufacturing is higher than the national average, unlike the Columbus MSA. In contrast, the state has a smaller share of workers than the nation in financial activities and professional and business services, the two sectors in which Columbus's employment is particularly concentrated.

2012 Location Quotients

Perhaps this difference in labor allocation accounts for the dissimilarity between the MSA's and the state's employment levels throughout the recession: Columbus suffered less job loss than the nation and significantly less than the state. Since the last business cycle peak in December 2007, employment within the MSA has grown by almost 1 percent. In comparison, Ohio's employment fell by 3.8 percent and the nation's declined by 1.7 percent over the same period.

Payroll Employment since December 2007

Since the last business cycle peak, nonmanufacturing employment within the MSA has increased by roughly 3 percent, compared to the nation's decline of 0.4 percent. In contrast, manufacturing job losses have been almost equivalent in Columbus and the nation.

Payroll Employment since December 2007

Recent job growth within the MSA has been largely driven by service industries. The leisure, hospitality, education, and health services sectors have consistently contributed to positive employment gains throughout the past six years. Although the professional and business services sector suffered a significant decline in employment in 2009, it has resurfaced as one of Columbus's leading sectors in terms of job growth in both 2011 and 2012.

Components of Employment Growth, Columbus MSA

During 2012, jobs in Columbus grew by about 1.5 percent, compared to the nation's gain of 1.7 percent. Predictably, the MSA performed more strongly than the nation in a number of higher-skilled service industries over this period, including financial activities, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality. Columbus experienced negative employment growth in only one sector and posted growth of more than 1 percent in many others.

Payroll Employment Growth December 2012

From 2005 to 2009, Columbus's unemployment rate remained very close to the nation's. While unemployment did increase sharply in the MSA during the recession, it has consistently been lower than the nation since early 2009. In December, the MSA's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.7, compared to 7.8 percent in the nation.

Unemployment Rate

Columbus is the only large Fourth District MSA whose population has grown at a faster rate than the nation's in the past three decades. Since 1980, Columbus's population has increased by 53 percent, compared to the nation's gain of 39 percent. In that same period, Cincinnati's population grew at slightly more than half of the national rate, while Cleveland's declined by 5 percent and Pittsburgh's fell by 10 percent.

Population Growth in the Fourth District

Although the Columbus MSA is home to a smaller percentage of minorities than the US, it has a higher percentage than the state. The MSA's population is relatively better educated: Almost a third of Columbus's residents aged 25 and older have earned a bachelor's degree, higher than in either Ohio or the nation. The MSA's population is also younger, on average, than either the state's or the nation's, with a median age of only 35.4.

Selected Demographics

Columbus Ohio U.S.
Total population (millions) 1.9 11.5 311.6
Percent by race
White 77.7 82.9 74.1
Black 14.6 12.1 12.6
Other 7.7 5.0 13.3
Percent by age
0-19 27.4 26.2 26.6
20-34 22.2 19.0 20.4
35-64 39.7 40.5 39.6
65 and older 10.8 14.2 13.2
Percent with bachelor's degree or higher 32.9 24.7 28.5
Median age 35.4 39.1 37.3
Source: US Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey.

In 2011, the MSA's per capita income was $40,188, exceeding the state's ($37,836) but falling below the nation's ($41,560). While Columbus's per capita income has been below the national level in recent years, it has historically been higher. It has also surpassed Ohio's in every year since 1980.

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