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Published: 9/18/2013 - Updated: 7 months ago

Area income records slight uptick

Census reports fewer in region falling below poverty line

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey for 2012 show a slight increase in the Toledo area’s median household income and a flat poverty rate.

The bureau’s figures show that fewer people in the Toledo metro area are living below the poverty line, and they are bringing home slightly more in their paychecks than they did in 2011, but much less than they did before the Great Recession several years ago.

According to the data, the number of families in the four-country metro area — Lucas, Ottawa, Fulton, and Monroe — who were living in poverty dropped 0.01 percent in 2012 to an estimated 14.5 percent, ending a four-year climb. The poverty rate for the same group was estimated at 11.2 percent in 2009.

Last year’s local poverty rate in the metro area compares to the census bureau estimate for Ohio of 12 percent, which was unchanged from 2011.

In a related statistic, the percentage of households that qualified for food assistance benefits also fell in the metro area. The bureau estimated the 17.7 percent estimate for 2012 was 0.08 percent lower than the previous year, but again, up from 2009 when the percentage of food stamp qualifications was 11.7 percent.

Deb Ortiz-Flores, director of Lucas County Job and Family Services, said the recent census data reflects trends that her agency has experienced in handling requests for assistance.

“When the economy was struggling, we did see some peaks in our case loads,” she said.

She said that in 2008, before the recession hit, about 71,777 people were on food assistance, but that number grew to 95,000 in early 2010 and is holding steady at about 96,000 people.

“We are not seeing the acceleration in dramatic numbers like we saw in 2008 and 2009. Employers are starting to bring people back into the work force, but the jobs are not on a full-time basis. We are seeing people going back to work but maybe not full-time positions and benefits. Some employers are using temporary agencies as the employer of record,” she said.

The percentage of people living in poverty in the city of Toledo in 2012 was estimated by the bureau at 24.6 percent, a 0.5 increase from 2011, and nearly five percentage points higher than in 2008 when the rate was 20 percent.

The median household income in the Toledo metro area rose 1.4 percent to $43,334 last year, according the survey. However, workers’ salaries have not returned to the level of 2010, when the estimated average was $43,664 and a year after the economy bottomed out. In 2008, the median salary was $47,700.

“The economy is undergoing a less than mediocre recovery and one of the slowest economic recoveries on record,” said economist Ken Mayland of Clearview Economics in suburban Cleveland. “This flows right back to people’s income. One is directly correlated to the other. In fact, employment currently is not up to 2007 levels. The sluggish nature of the economic recovery is producing poor performance in terms of economic growth and simply correlates to income gains.”

Metro Toledo saw year over year growth in the percentage of workers in eight sectors, including manufacturing, which climbed 1.2 percent to an estimated 15.5 percent, the highest for the industry since 2008 when employment was 15.9 percent.

Other segments in the work force recording increases, according to the census survey, were construction, wholesale and retail trade, information, and professional and scientific services.

Agriculture and forestry, transportation and warehousing, and finance and real estate had declines in the work force last year.

The census survey showed that the percentage of people without health-insurance coverage continued to decline. The new figures estimate 10.7 of the metro Toledo population didn’t have insurance, a 0.5 percent drop from 2011.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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