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January 5, 2016 4:00 PM, EST
Truckers in Higher Demand Than Any Other Occupation in West Ohio
Burch by John Sommers II for Transport Topics
The demand for qualified job applicants in Ohio is as robust as it has been in the past five years, particularly in the trucking and nursing industries.

Ohio saw more online advertised job openings in one month — from Oct. 14 to Nov. 13 — than at any time since the state began tracking online job postings five years ago, according to a recent report from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Statewide, Ohio had 240,000 posted openings between those dates. 

In the 12-county West Ohio area that includes Clark, Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties, heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck driving was the occupation with the most job ads, 1,912, according to the state’s monthly report.

Openings for registered nurses saw the second-biggest group of ads in the area with 697, the state said.

“When you look at this report, one of the things that’s immediately apparent is the diversity of Ohio’s economy, the diversity of job opportunities that are available,” Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Job and Family Services, said Jan. 4.

Both truck driving and nursing offer jobs that can be satisfying and financially rewarding, Johnson said.

Ohio’s unemployment rate edged up in November to 4.5% from 4.4%, but some observers believe that’s due to more Ohioans looking for work.

Kevin Burch, president of Dayton trucking firm Jet Express Inc. and first vice chairman of American Trucking Associations, said the trucking industry faces a “perfect storm” of workforce challenges. It has an aging workforce and tough working conditions. And he contends heavy government regulations weigh on all workers.

“This is an industry where the government tells you when you can sleep, when you can work, how many hours you can work,” Burch said.

The trucking industry needs to do a better job of drawing young drivers, Burch said. Trucking firms lose younger workers to construction when the economy picks up, he said.

“We have done a pathetically poor job of trying to get people involved in our industry, men and women, at the younger age,” he said.

Thousands of commercial drivers license holders can’t travel across state lines because they’re younger than 21, he said.

Drivers younger than 21 may drive within the state. But federal law prohibits them from driving to Detroit or Richmond, Ind., Burch said. Even after the recently passed federal five-year highway spending bill, younger drivers still can’t cross state lines.

“We have really handcuffed people trying to get into this industry,” he said.

At Jet Express, drivers are home every day or every other day, Burch said. But military veterans just home from Afghanistan are not seeking a job like that — they want to be home nightly, if possible.

“In this industry, not everyone is home every night,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

George Zeller, a widely followed Cleveland economist, said online job ads are worth following. But he questioned whether growth there indicates demand for workers or simply a growth in online ads.

“We might suspect some of it is just the growth of online advertising itself,” he said.

Based on his weekly look at Ohio claims for unemployment benefits, Zeller contends the statewide job situation could be far better.

“We are recovering, don’t get me wrong … but the growth is too slow, and it’s below the national average,” Zeller said.

Ohio still has not recovered 16,900 of the jobs that it lost as a result of the recent recession, and Ohio still remains 199,100 jobs short of the jobs that it has lost since the 2000-02 national recession, Zeller recently wrote.