The Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area
The Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is located in the geographic center of Ohio. The MSA is home to 1.75 million people dispersed across eight counties (Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Morrow, Pickaway, and Union).
Columbus differs from other large Fourth District MSAs in terms of population growth. Since 1970, Columbus’s population has grown at a pace equivalent to the nation. In that same period, Cincinnati’s population grew half as fast, while Pittsburgh’s declined 15 percent and Cleveland’s declined 10 percent.
Columbus also differs from other Fourth District MSAs in that the proportion of its workforce employed in manufacturing is lower than the national average. This difference in labor allocation may have helped insulate the MSA from the job losses that have taken their toll on other Fourth District MSAs. Columbus’s diverse economy is anchored by two high-skilled, high-wage service industries: financial activities and professional and business services. In 2007, the share of workers in each of these service industries was more than 20 percent greater in Columbus than in the nation as a whole.
From 2006 to 2007, the MSA’s total nonfarm employment grew faster than the nation’s (1.3 percent compared to 1.1 percent). Professional and business services have seen employment growth in excess of 4 percent, roughly doubling that of the nation’s in that industry. Manufacturing was less of a drag on Columbus than on the nation with growth of −1.3 percent and −1.9 percent, respectively. On the downside, natural resources, mining, and construction lost employment in Columbus at a rate substantially above the national rate.
Since the last business cycle peak in March 2001, Columbus added 2.8 percent to its total nonfarm payroll employment, compared to Ohio’s loss of 3.1 percent and the nation’s gain of 3.9 percent. Columbus’s employment numbers returned to pre–recession levels in late 2005, while the nation’s returned in early 2005.
The most consistent drivers of annual employment growth have been education, health, leisure, government and other services, followed by transportation, warehousing, and utilities. Financial, information, and business services rebounded in 2004 and have been providing a boost to employment growth in recent years. Not surprisingly, manufacturing has been a drag on Columbus’s employment numbers; on the bright side, the size of manufacturing’s negative impact has decreased each year since 2001.
Until recently, the Columbus MSA had experienced lower levels of unemployment than the nation. From 1990 through late 2004, Columbus’s unemployment rate was consistently below the national rate. In the late 1990s, Columbus even had an unemployment rate below 3 percent. However, coming out of the last recession, the MSA’s unemployment rates have generally hovered around the national unemployment rate.