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The opening day of Ohio's General Assembly last month brought questions about potential action by the legislature on a number of hot-button social issues.
But the new Senate president, Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, told reporters he wants to keep the focus on the economy over the assembly's two-year term.
"It’s pretty straightforward: Ohio is doing better right now than the national average on all the numbers — but better just isn’t good enough," he said.
The start of a new year and a new term is a good time to take stock. PolitiFact Ohio wondered how Ohio stacked up on the economic numbers. We asked Faber's office which ones he was talking about.
The answer: Unemployment and job creation.
Employment figures are the true measure of the health of a state’s economy, economic experts have told us, which is why they are so frequently cited.
We checked the numbers released last week by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee.
Its report showed the unemployment rate in Ohio was 6.7 percent in December 2012, which was more than a point below the national figure of 7.8 -- and down from the most recent peak of 10.6 percent in January 2010.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that Ohio's over-the-year jobs increase through December 2012 (up 90,700), was exceeded only by Texas (260,800), California (225,900) and New York (123,600).
We found similar significant job growth in a fact-check a couple of months ago.
That backs up Faber's statement.
But because two figures are "both" and not "all" the numbers, we looked at more.
Ohio's gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic production, totaled $484.0 billion in 2011, the most recent number available. That was 8th largest in the U.S., or above average, but failed to keep pace with growth nationally.
On a per capita basis, Ohio's GDP of $41,920 was 33rd in the nation.
Ohio also ranked 33rd in 2011 in per capita personal income, at $37,836, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was below the national average of $41,560.
In median household income, the most recent figures show Ohio dropping precipitously. Ohio ranked 39th among the states in median household income in 2011, at $44,648, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That was a drop of 5.7 percent from a year earlier, or more than three times the national average. Ohio ranked 34th in median income the previous year, and 19th a decade earlier in 2000.
The state's percentage of population living below the poverty line, at 15.1 percent in 2011, was almost unchanged from the previous year, the Census Bureau reported last September. The official poverty rate for the nation was 15 percent, also almost unchanged.
Those numbers help to illustrate that Ohio was one of the half dozen hardest-hit states in the great recession. A recent analysis by JPMorgan Chase, though, says its economy is forecast to grow faster or as fast as the national economy in 2013 -- "paralleling the national recovery."
Even so, while the analysis says "housing activity is forecast to gradually recover from current levels," it also says "home building remains depressed, as in most other states, and there is little indication yet of a housing revival in Ohio," according to data from the Census Bureau and Federal Housing Finance Agency. The growth in house prices lags the national trend.
Where does that leave Faber?
At PolitiFact Ohio, words matter. And "all" is a little word that covers a lot of territory -- too much to apply to his statement about the economy.
Faber's point about Ohio doing better than average is backed up by what experts have told PolitiFact Ohio are key figures -- unemployment and job creation -- and they are the ones he cited.
Other figures, however, show Ohioans have lost ground economically and trail national averages.
Faber’s statement is partially accurate. But even allowing for political hyperbole, a statement that "all" of Ohio’s economic numbers are outpacing averages for the nation omits or overlooks important information.
On the Truth-O-Meter, his statement rates as Half True.
Associated Press via Akron Beacon Journal, "New Ohio Senate leader puts economy at forefront," Jan. 7, 2013
Phone interview with Faber office, Jan. 24, 2013
U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, "Casey Releases January State-by-State Economic Snapshot," Jan. 23 2013
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and state employment and unemployment, Jan. 18, 2013
PolitiFact Ohio, "Jobs Ohio claims the Buckeye State nearly tops for new jobs in last year," Nov. 29, 2012
Ohio Legislative Service Commission, "Ohio's economy ranks 8th largest among states," September 2012
Ohio Development Services Agency, Economic overview, January 2013
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional facts: Ohio
JPMorgan Chase, "Ohio economic outlook," Dec. 2, 2012
U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance in the United States: 2011," Sept. 12, 2012
The Plain Dealer, "Ohio income down, rates of poverty and uninsured unchanged, 2011 census figures show," Sept. 13, 2012
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis via Bureau of Business and Economic Research, University of New Mexico, "Per Capita Personal Income by State," Oct. 12, 2012
Federal Housing Finance Agency, State Housing Price Index Summary
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