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The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman Metropolitan Statistical Area

Youngstown, Ohio, is at the center of a larger metropolitan statistical area (MSA) that includes the cities of Youngstown, Warren, and Boardman, Ohio, and the counties of Trumbull and Mahoning in Ohio and Mercer in Pennsylvania. The area, often referred to as the Mahoning Valley and once known as the Steel Valley, was home to a flourishing steel industry from the mid- 1800s to the 1970s. Back in the 1920s, the valley’s steel production ranked second in nation, but today most of the steel mills have been closed down, sold, and scrapped. Now producing little steel, the area has experienced a vast population decline and has yet to regain employment lost from previous recessions.

Figure 1: Employment Recovery in Different Business Cycles

Recent employment statistics for the Youngstown MSA are startling. Employment typically falls around recessions but picks back up once the recovery begins. The Youngstown MSA followed this pattern after the 1990 recession, but in the two subsequent recessions, employment did not bounce back. Since the business cycle peak in 2001, employment has fallen almost continuously. At the time the 2007 recession hit 81 months later, employment was nearly 6 percent lower than it was in 2001. During the 2007 recession, employment continued to decline until November 2009, where 23 months into this business cycle, the Youngstown MSA’s job market had lost an aggregate 14 percent since its peak in 2001. As of May of 2014, the MSA’s employment has expanded but still remains nearly 10 percent below where it was at the peak in 2001 and 4 percent below where it was at the start of the 2007 recession. By comparison, employment levels in the nation as a whole recovered after all three recessions.

Even with the near absence of the steel industry, manufacturing still accounts for a significant share of employment in the Youngstown MSA. The share of employment in manufacturing has been higher in the Youngstown MSA than in both Ohio and the nation as a whole since 1990, even as the manufacturing sector has declined considerably over that time. Since 1990, manufacturing’s share of total employment has declined from 24 percent to 13 percent in the MSA, while in the nation it has declined from 16 percent to 9 percent. The Youngstown MSA’s employment shares also exceed Ohio’s and the nation’s in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, other services sector, and the educational and health services sector.

Figure 2: Location Quotients in 2013 and Two Recessions

Overall, the employment shares of most sectors in the Youngstown MSA relative to the nation have been fairly stable across business cycles. However, since 2001 the share of employment in the professional and business services sector has increased in Youngstown relative to the nation. This trend is encouraging, as the sector has accounted for roughly 30 percent of job growth nationally since 2010.

 Mirroring the continuous declines in overall employment is a similar decline in Youngstown’s population. Since 2000, the two series have both fallen significantly. However, employment has declined much more and at a quicker pace over the period. Recently, employment has started to increase, while population continues to decline.

Figure 3: Population and Employment

Much of the population decline over the last several decades has been fueled by major migrations out of the MSA. In general, though, when people decide to leave Youngstown, they often stay fairly close to home. County-to-county migration data from the American Community Survey for 2007-2011 shows that 35 percent of residents left the Youngstown MSA for the South, 33 percent went to the Midwest, 22 went elsewhere in the Northeast, and 11 percent went to the West. However, the greatest outflows to cities were to Pittsburgh (1028 movers), Columbus (852), Akron (852), and Dayton (728). The most popular destinations farther afield were Salt Lake County, Utah (186 movers), and Sarasota County, Florida (167).

Figure 4: MSAs with the Greatest Net Migration from Youngstown (number of people)

Per capita personal income is much lower in Youngstown than in the surrounding MSAs, Ohio, and the nation as a whole. On average over the last 20 years, annual per capita personal income in Youngstown has been $5,927 less than the national average. However, since 2009 income growth in Youngstown’s MSA has outpaced the nation’s (13 percent versus 11 percent).

Figure 5: Figure 5: Per Capita Personal Income

Youngstown’s MSA has an older and less educated population than the nation as a whole. The proportion of residents over 65 is nearly 5 percentage points higher in the MSA than in the nation (19 percent versus 14 percent), and whereas nationally 23 percent of those in this age bracket hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, only 13 percent of those in the Youngstown MSA do. Worrisome is that this 10 percent differential in educational attainment occurs in younger cohorts as well. Only 23 percent of the Youngstown MSA residents aged 25 to 34 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, while the national average is 32 percent. The averages for the population as a whole are 19 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the Youngstown MSA versus nearly 30 percent for the nation.

Selected Demographics, 2012

Youngstown MSA Ohio US
Total population 558,206 11,544,225 313,914,040
Percent by race
White 85.9% 82.7% 73.9%
Black 11.0% 12.2% 12.6%
Other 3.1% 5.1% 13.5%
Percent by age
Under 18 21.1% 23.0% 23.5%
18 to 64 60.3% 62.2% 62.8%
65 and older 18.6% 14.8% 13.7%
Percent with bachelor's degree or higher (25 or older) 18.80% 25.3% 29.1%
Median age 43.5 39.3 37.4

Source: The American FactFinder, US Census Bureau.

Overall, statistics on the Youngstown MSA’s economy indicate that although the Mahoning Valley may be down, it’s definitely not out. There are a number of obstacles to overcome: the region’s industries are undergoing restructuring, employment in the Youngstown MSA has yet to recover fully from the recent recessions, the population is declining, and educational attainment is lower than the national average. However, on the upside, per capita income growth is on par with and even slightly better than the nation, and shares of employment are rising in the professional and business services sector, one of the sectors cited for leading the national recovery.

Additionally, ongoing growth of the shale industry is likely to provide a boost to the regional economy. While the full effect remains to be seen, we expect the industry to provide more jobs and contribute to the region’s share of employment and GDP, given the early indicators. With nearly 140 producing wells in neighboring Carroll County, the supply needs of the drilling sector are just beginning to affect the MSA. For example, a $1 billion steel pipe plant recently opened in Youngstown, creating 350 jobs.

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