The preliminary estimate of jobs in the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area shows a net gain of 2,200 jobs (0.2 percent) in February. This is amazing given that the U.S. lost 651,000 jobs (0.5 percent). Nationally, only three sectors gained jobs: education and health care, leisure and hospitality, and government. Locally, each of these gained, as did construction (!), wholesale, retail, financial activities, and business services. It bears repeating that these estimates are preliminary and will be revised later this month. But indications so far are that the recession is not affecting us as badly as it is affecting other regions. Since the recession began in December 2007, our employment has declined at less than half the national rate: a total loss of 1.4 percent locally, 3.2 percent nationally. U.S. employment declined in each of the 14 months through February, while local employment rose in six of those months. Locally, the only sectors that have done worse than the national average so far are construction, transportation and utilities, leisure and hospitality, and government.
What’s going on here? I think the most likely explanation is that we are being less affected by the recession because we were less affected by the boom. Our job growth was less than average in each of the years between 2003 and 2006, and only slightly better than average in 2007. House prices never exploded here as they did elsewhere. We looked enviously at the national trends earlier in the decade, but it seems that we are now better off for not joining in the hysteria.