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Mekael Teshome and Sarah Mattson

COLUMBUS, OHIO MSA | JUNE 2018

Columbus—Unemployment Rate Approaches Historical Low

The Columbus metro area’s diversified economy is among the most successful in Ohio. In the first quarter of 2018, the local unemployment rate fell to
nearly its lowest point on record, and employment growth in the metro area continued to outpace that of the state and the nation. Most industry sectors
added jobs in the first quarter, with much of that growth driven by two sectors: education and health services and trade, transportation, and utilities.
Home prices and residential building permit issuance rose faster in the metro area than in either Ohio or the United States. Consumer debt and the credit
card delinquency rate remained stable in the metro area. Inflation-adjusted per capita income growth slowed in the metro area in 2016, though it still
outpaced the state’s and nation’s income growth.

METRO AREA SNAPSHOT
Unemployment Rate
One-year
change

March 2018

Median Home Value

Payroll Employment

Credit Card
Delinquency Rate

One-year
change

September
2017

One-year
change

2017:Q4

One-year
change

(percent)

(percentage points)

(percent)

(percentage points)

March 2018

Columbus

3.3

–0.8

$178,933

9.1

1,020

1.3

6.4

–0.1

Ohio

4.4

–0.7

$130,659

6.4

5,365

0.6

6.9

0.2

United States

4.1

–0.4

$213,146

8.0

143,869

1.0

7.2

0.1

In the first quarter of 2018, the Columbus metro area’s unemployment
rate fell to near historically low levels.
Percent
12
10

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

8
6

■ Recession

4
2
0
2008

2010

2012

2014

2016

2018

(percent)

(thousands)

(percent)

 UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

The Columbus metro area’s unemployment rate fell sharply in the first quarter
of 2018 to near historically low levels. The unemployment rate dropped from
4.0 percent in December 2017 to 3.3 percent in March 2018. By comparison,
the national unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent in March 2018. The only
other period in the past four decades when the local unemployment rate was
this low was during the boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Moreover, the
metro area’s unemployment rate fell in the first quarter for the right reason:
employment growth outpaced labor force growth. This is a sign of confidence
in local labor market conditions, as job seekers are drawn in to the workforce
by the availability of jobs. The metro area’s unemployment rate is typically
lower than both the state’s and nation’s unemployment rates.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics/Haver Analytics.

The Columbus metro area’s per capita real GDP has grown by more than
8 percent in the last decade.
Index, 2007=100
110
105

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

100

■ Recession
95
90
2006
2008
2010
2012
2014
Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis/Haver Analytics.

2016

 GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT

The Columbus metro area enjoys a higher standard of living than the rest
of the state or the nation. In dollar terms, the metro area’s per capita real
GDP is more than $10,000 higher than the state’s per capita GDP and
$7,000 greater than the national average. The growth rate of the metro
area’s living standards (as measured by real per capita GDP) did fall by
about half to just over 2 percent in 2016 (the latest year for which we have
data). Yet even with the cooler growth rate, the metro area’s 2016 growth
rate was about three times that of the 2016 growth rates for the state and
nation. In addition, real per capita GDP in the Columbus metro area was
more than 8 percent greater in 2016 than it was in 2007, compared with
only 3.5 percent cumulative growth nationally during the same period.

COLUMBUS, OHIO MSA

FOURTH DISTRICT METRO MIX
YOUR DISTRICT, YOUR DATA

JUNE 2018

The Columbus metro area’s employment growth continues to outpace that of
the state and the nation.

 EMPLOYMENT

Index, 2007:M12=100

The Columbus metro area’s employment growth continues to outpace
that of the state and the nation, as it has throughout this economic
expansion. In the 12 months through September 2017, employment in
the Columbus metro area rose by 1.3 percent; this increase was more
than twice as strong as statewide employment growth and also stronger
than national employment growth. During 2017, the metro area added
an average of about 1,000 jobs per month—a number that is lower than
the about 1,400 jobs per month averaged throughout the expansion.
Despite the downshift in net job gains, employment in the metro area
is 10 percent higher than it was prior to the Great Recession, compared
with just more than 1 percent higher and 6 percent higher for the state
and nation, respectively.

115

105

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

100

■ Recession

110

95
90
2007

2009

EMPLOYMENT AND INDUSTRIAL SECTORS

2011

2013

2015

2017

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

Nearly all major industry sectors added workers in the 12 months
through September 2017.

 EMPLOYMENT GROWTH BY SECTOR

Nearly all major industry sectors added workers in the 12 months
through September 2017. Construction was the fastest-growing sector
in the Columbus metro area. The next-fastest-growing sectors—
education and health services and trade, transportation, and utilities—
grew notably faster in the metro area than in the state or nation. The
sectors that drove employment growth on a year-over-year basis in the
metro area were the same growth drivers as in the six months prior.

Construction
Education and health services
Trade, transportation, and utilities
Financial activities

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

Government
Leisure and hospitality
Manufacturing
Information
Professional and business services

–2 –1 0
1
2
3
4
5
6
			Year-over-year percent change

7

8

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

In the year that ended with September 2017, construction was the
fastest-growing employment sector in the Columbus metro area.

Employment

12-month
change

Share of
employment

Trade, transportation, and utilities

197,395

4,618

19.3

Professional and business services

170,775

–2,467

16.7

Government

157,270

2,346

15.4

Education and health services

154,923

5,214

15.2

Leisure and hospitality

107,340

1,027

10.5

Financial activities

74,452

1,704

7.3

Manufacturing

71,571

579

7.0

Construction

38,607

1,359

3.8

Information

15,802

43

1.5

Sector

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK of CLEVELAND

 SECTOR EMPLOYMENT

The fastest-growing sector in the Columbus metro area economy,
construction, is also one of the smallest: Its 3.6 percent year-over-year
growth translated into around 1,300 jobs. Employment in the metro area
is more concentrated in the services sectors than in the state or nation;
goods-producing sectors such as construction are smaller than would
be expected based on national trends. The two next-fastest-growing
sectors—education and health services and trade, transportation, and
utilities—account for more than a third of the metro area’s employment
and added a combined total of nearly 10,000 jobs, or more than two-thirds
of the metro area’s total employment growth in the 12 months through
September 2017. One blemish in the otherwise positive data is that the
second-largest industry sector in the Columbus metro area’s economy,
professional and business services, lost jobs during the period. Along with
financial services, business and professional services is one of the metro
area’s main industries of specialization, employing significantly more
people than would be expected based on national trends. The fact that the
metro area’s economy still advanced when one of its largest sectors pared
workers is a testament to the regional economy’s industrial diversity.

COLUMBUS, OHIO MSA

FOURTH DISTRICT METRO MIX
YOUR DISTRICT, YOUR DATA

INCOME

Though Columbus metro-area income growth slowed in 2016, it remains
slightly faster than the income growth of Ohio or the United States.
	I NCOME PER CAPITA

Thousands of dollars
52

	
Income growth slowed in 2016 in the Columbus metro area, though it

50

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

48
46

■ Recession

44
42
40
2006

2008

JUNE 2018

2010

2012

2014

remains slightly faster than either the state’s or the nation’s. Inflation-adjusted
income per capita grew less than 0.5 percent, or less than $250, in the
Columbus metro area in 2016—a marked deceleration from the growth
rates seen in the prior two years. The slowing for the metro area is not
surprising, given that inflation-adjusted per capita income growth had also
slowed across the state and nation. Per capita income in the metro area
continues to be above the statewide level but below the national average.

2016

Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis/Haver Analytics.

CONSUMER FINANCES

Since debt levels stabilized after the Great Recession, the Columbus metro
area’s per capita debt levels have been around $4,000 lower than the
national average.
	C ONSUMER DEBT

Thousands of dollars, four-quarter moving average
55
50

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

45
40

■ Recession

35
30
25
2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

 onsumer finances in the Columbus metro area are in relatively better
C
shape than those in rest of the country. Since debt levels stabilized after the
Great Recession, the metro area’s per capita debt levels have been around
$4,000 lower than the national average, even though local per capita income
is about $1,500 less than national per capita income. Compared with Ohio,
however, Columbus metro area residents carry about $8,000 more debt
per capita. The differences in debt loads across these regions can be mostly
explained by differences in the amount of average mortgage debt, driven by
the differences in home prices.

2017

Sources: Authors’ calculations from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s
Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax.

Credit card delinquency rates in the Columbus metro area have been
lower than the state’s or nation’s delinquency rates throughout the
current expansion.
Percent of credit card balances delinquent, four-quarter moving average
14
12
— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

10
8
6

■ Recession

4
2
0
2007

2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

	C REDIT CARD DELINQUENCY RATE

The credit card delinquency rate in the Columbus metro area
remains consistent with the rates of the past few years. Delinquency
rates in the metro area have been lower than the state’s or nation’s
delinquency rates throughout the current expansion. The metro area’s
delinquency rate is 0.5 percentage points lower than the statewide
average and 0.8 percentage point lower than the national average.
These differences are in line with differences in delinquency rates
since rates stabilized in the metro area, state, and nation in late 2014.
In this period since late 2014, average credit card balances in the
Columbus metro area have been somewhat higher than the statewide
average and slightly lower than the national average.

Sources: Authors’ calculations from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s
Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax.

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK of CLEVELAND

COLUMBUS, OHIO MSA

FOURTH DISTRICT METRO MIX
YOUR DISTRICT, YOUR DATA

JUNE 2018

As of March 2018, home prices in the Columbus metro area have risen
more than 9 percent since the year before.
Year-over-year percent change
15
10

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States

5
0

■ Recession

–5

HOUSING MARKET
 HOUSING PRICES

A healthy labor market and strong demographics keep the Columbus
metro area’s housing market moving forward: Home prices were up
9.1 percent on a year-over-year basis in March 2018. The price increase
in the 12 months through March was a faster rate of appreciation than
that seen statewide or nationally. This is a positive development for
regional household wealth, as housing is often the single largest asset
for homeowners.

–10
–15
2008

2010

2012

2014

2016

2018

Sources: Zillow.com/Haver Analytics.

Despite volatility, residential building permit issuance in the Columbus
metro area has been trending upward since mid-2015.
	H OUSING PERMITS

Index, 2007:M12=100, 12-month moving average
160
140

— Columbus
— Ohio
— United States
Cincinnati
■
Recessionof
Average
nearby metros

120
100
80
60

United States

40
20
2007

Ohio
2009

2011

2013

2015

2017

Residential building permit issuance has been volatile in the Columbus
metro area but has nevertheless been trending upward since mid-2015.
Strong issuance in the first three months of 2018 suggests this trend
will continue. Permit issuance in the Columbus metro area has grown
significantly faster than in the state or the nation throughout the
economic recovery and expansion. Healthy population growth and
new-household formation support housing demand and construction
in the region. Permit issuance is now more than 40 percent higher in the
metro area than it was in December 2007, the end of the prior expansion.
By comparison, residential permit issuance has yet to reach prerecession
levels in the state or nation.

Sources: US Census Bureau/Haver Analytics.

DEMOGRAPHICS AND EDUCATION
Columbus Metro Area
			
		
2016
Population

2,046,977

United States

Change from		
2006
2016

Change from
2006

+12.7%

323,406,000

+8.4%

Adults with less than a
high school diploma

8.9%

–2.7 pp

12.5%

–3.4 pp

Adults with an undergraduate
degree or higher

36%

+4.7 pp

31.3%

+4.3 pp

Median age (years)

35.8

+0.9

37.9

+1.5

$62,692

+1.4%

$59,909

–0.1%

Median household income

Note: Percentage points is abbreviated as pp.
Sources: US Census Bureau population estimates; American Community Survey.

 COLUMBUS, OHIO

		Strong demographics underpin the Columbus metro area’s

economic fortunes. From 2010 through 2017, the latest year for
which we have population data, the metro area’s population grew
9.2 percent. Though this growth is about in the middle of the pack
for large metropolitan areas, it is comparatively faster than other
large metropolitan areas in the Fourth Federal Reserve District
or the Midwest. About half of the metro area’s population growth
from 2010 to 2017 was due to natural population increases (births
minus deaths). The remainder was about evenly split between US
in-migrants and international immigrants. In addition to healthy
population growth, the Columbus metro area is relatively younger,
better educated, and wealthier than the national population.

Mekael Teshome is vice president and senior regional officer of the Pittsburgh Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Sarah Mattson is a research analyst at the Branch. The
authors thank economic analyst Christopher Vecchio for preparing the charts.
All monthly and quarterly figures are seasonally adjusted, and all dollar figures are in constant dollars, for which the base period is provided by the latest available data. Home prices are
an exception, and they are not adjusted for inflation. Where applicable, these adjustments are made prior to calculating percent changes or indexes. Several charts use indexed measures
to facilitate comparisons across regions and have a reference line at 100. These numbers can be thought of as the percentages of prerecession levels. If levels were growing before the
recession, prerecession indexes will be below 100; if levels were falling before the recession, prerecession indexes will be above 100.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, including its branch offices in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves the Fourth Federal Reserve District (Ohio, western Pennsylvania, the northern
panhandle of West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky).
Explore more regional analyses like this Metro Mix, along with research, datasets, and the Beige Book, at www.clevelandfed.org/region.

FEDERAL RESERVE BANK of CLEVELAND