The median household income in the nation ticked up 2.6 percent in 2017 from the year before and creeped up in the state, too, but families in Lorain County aren’t feeling the surge, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The data for the county showed a 1.3 percent decrease, from $55,676 to $54,932. In Lorain, the median household income fell 12.9 percent from $37,181 to $32,379. Since the data released Wednesday included only communities with more than 65,000 people, Lorain was the only city in Lorain County that was included.
ED BETZEL / CHRONICLE Enlarge
Lorain County Administrator Jim Cordes said the county reflects the struggles of its larger cities.
The thing is the jobs that are being created aren’t necessarily the high-paying manufacturing jobs that were in the area for years,” he said. “Could those jobs come back? I don’t believe so, but all of that is still shifting. You also have higher unemployment rates in Lorain that can put a weight on something like that.”
Republic Steel in Lorain idled its mill indefinitely on Lorain’s southside during the 2016 to 2017 period when the nearly 13 percent drop occurred.
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said the decrease could be related to numerous factors.
“Because it is a median, really any number of factors could be at work,” he said. “If the population is holding steady and the economy is improving, it could be more people have jobs and are earning at the lower end of the pay scale. Of course, that presents other challenges regarding wage rates. It also could be fewer people working or jobs paying less.”
Since 2000, Lorain’s median household income has decreased 35 percent and Ritenauer said that could be attributed to a loss of industry, such as the closure of the Ford plant on the city’s west side.
“Manufacturing jobs and industry paid good wages with strong benefit plans,” he said. “Some of the jobs that have replaced manufacturing and industry pay far less.”
Ritenauer said one of the ways to reduce the downward trend is to invest more in infrastructure and continue to demolish vacant and abandoned structures.
“We need to continue to support new housing development and retail development,” he said. “We need to do all we can to support business — no matter how big or small — in coming to Lorain. We have seen growth in our small- to mid-sized business sector, and we are hopeful for some positive news out of the steel mill.”
Republic has indicated it plans to reopen its mill by the end of the year, starting with 80 jobs. Ritenauer previously said the company has talked to the city about setting up utilities, but that’s been the extent of the discussion.
Ritenauer said a revived mill would be nice, but the city isn’t relying on the income tax funds the way it used to.
“Our budget has adjusted to little to no steel mill revenue,” he said. “Maintaining financial stability while investing in existing neighborhoods, eliminating blight and supporting business are the ways we take steps forward.”
Also released Wednesday were changes to median home values. In those numbers, Lorain County is faring worse than the national median.
ED BETZEL / CHRONICLE Enlarge
Lorain County saw a 4 percent decrease in home values from 2016 to 2017 — $149,548 to $143,600. During that same period, the nation saw a 3.9 percent increase from $209,409 to $217,600.
Cuyahoga County saw an increase of 1.8 percent and its largest city, Cleveland, saw an increase from $68,237 to $70,200, or 2.9 percent.
Lorain’s median home value saw a slight dip from $86,011 to $85,800, or 0.2 percent.
Ritenauer said the decrease is minimal and could be affected by the fact that while housing prices are rising in some parts of the city, they’re decreasing in others.
“The housing market as of late has been robust,” he said. “Lorain has several new neighborhoods, but older housing stock poses a challenge. I think some of this is the plateau effect while some of it is the nature of the current economy. Without having the data by neighborhood, it is difficult to say.”
When compared with Lorain’s marginal dip, the median home values statewide have increased slightly from $143,113 in 2016 to $144,200 in 2017, or 0.8 percent.