Recession challenges middle class

MARIETTA – Despite national and even global trends that suggest the availability of middle-class jobs is diminishing, many area officials believe the Mid-Ohio Valley has and will continue to be a viable place for steady, well-paying jobs.

“We’re kind of an aberration I’m thinking, Washington County. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state,” said Terry Tamburini, executive director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority.

In December, Washington County logged an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, not quite as good as the state average of 6.8 percent; however, Washington County is fairing much better than neighboring Morgan (11.1 percent), Noble (9.7 percent), and Monroe (10.1 percent) counties.

“I think the economy has gotten better based on the context I’m working with. Certainly it is better than it was in 2008, 2009,” said Hughes, who mainly works on job placement with traditional college students.

A declining unemployment rate falls in line with the national trend. What sets the region apart, said Tamburini, is the quality of the job openings.

Nationally, nearly three quarters of new job growth is in areas considered low-paying, with salaries under $37,000, according to The Associated Press.

Locally, the steady march of Marcellus shale drilling has resulted in desirable positions not only inside the oil and gas industry, but in peripheral industries as well, said Tamburini.

The loss of many of the middle class jobs has been attributed to technological advances, replacing or at least lessening the need for human work.

And even outside of the oil and gas industry, the career center is preparing students for middle class jobs that show no signs of slowing down, he said.