Five years after the end of the recession, a variety of local residents and employers say their experiences point to a healthily rebounding-though perhaps not completely recovered-economy in Washington County. But statistics on the matter are mixed.
At Washington County Job and Family Services, demand for jobs has only increased, said supervisor Candy Nelson.
"We're swamped. We can't keep up with people needing help with jobs," she said.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Pioneer Pipe employee Amber Soprano works overtime on a welding project Friday afternoon in Marietta. The business is one that has fully bounced back from the recession, but local experiences are mixed.
Currently, there are jobs available, but most are entry level positions that pay between $8 to $10 an hour, she said.
The narrative plays into statewide statistics, which shows unemployment is dropping, but so are statewide median household incomes. The numbers indicate that jobs added in recent years are at the bottom of the pay scale and are not doing much to improve the plight of those in the lowest income brackets.
In the housing market, much hailed as an indicator of middle class security, home sales are steadily rising. But local broker Nancy Arthur, who owns Advantage Real Estate, stopped shy of saying the industry has reached pre-recession numbers.
At a glance
Median household incomes 2008-2012:
Washington County: $43,829.
Monroe County: $41,677.
Noble County: $39,544.
Morgan County: $37,152.
Athens County: $33,836.
Source: American Community Survey 2008-2012.
"People are diving back in. People think that now is a good time to buy. But there is still some caution, and money is harder to get than before the recession," she said.
Even Arthur herself is a practitioner of that cautiously optimistic consumer attitude.
"I feel that sense of caution myself as a business owner. Recently I needed a new copier. I put it off. I thought long and hard about making that business investment," she said.
Still, Arthur said Washington County came out of the recession looking much cleaner than other Ohio areas, where the bubble burst led to mass foreclosures and abandoned homes.
"We didn't get hit as hard here," she said.
Local residents said they feel they are doing better than before the recession but not necessarily purely because of finances.
Adam Ogard, an employee of the oil and gas industry, said he is working the same job as before the recession and making similar pay. But he still feels he is better off because he has more leisure time.
"It's a lot busier in Ohio now, so I'm not on the road as much. I see my family more," said Ogard, an Indiana native who has been working in Marietta for about six years.
Marietta resident Karen Thompson, 51, said she personally is doing about the same as before the recession, but she has seen economic improvements for those around her.
"My sister is doing much better. She is a nurse and she's been able to get a job at the hospital," said Thompson.
Marietta resident Dave Ward, 48, said evidence of improvement is all around.
"Seems like there are more cars on the road. Hotels are growing. It's making a comeback," he said.
Ward said his family is "a lot better off" than they were before the onset of the recession but credits much of that to personal management of money.
Some local business echoed this sentiment, saying hiring numbers have surpassed pre-recession numbers.
"We have restored and exceeded pre-crisis employment levels," said Rick Stafford, Peoples Bank executive vice president for sales and marketing.
Much of that is due to the bank's aggressive expansion and acquisitions goals in recent years.
But that growth is also leading to more support roles at the Marietta headquarters.
Pioneer Pipe has also exceeded pre-recession employment levels, said chief operating and financial officer Matt Hilverding.
"Lots of businesses have not been able to get all their employees back. We are back to where we were before the recession. In fact we're a little above," he said.
Hiring was stalled due to the recession at Pioneer Pipe, but not wages, which continued to rise throughout the recession for union employees.
Where Pioneer Pipe has seen the bounce back is in its ability to hire. Fueled by the oil and gas industry and steady need from local industry, the company employs the full-time equivalent of between 550 and 600 laborers.
The opportunities at Pioneer Pipe go against the statistical norm of low-paying unskilled opportunities. Even the entry-level jobs at the company are well-paid skilled positions, said Hilverding.
With benefits, an average journeyman welder makes $58 per hour, he said.
Even with improvements in several arenas, the use of public assistance programs is far greater than before the recession.
"People are employed, but they are not making enough to disqualify them from those services," said Job and Family Services director Tom Ballengee in reference to assistance programs such as Medicaid and food stamps.
While need plays into that, awareness about the programs has also increased since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in January, said Ballengee.
"A lot of people who qualify under the ACA or Medicaid expansion had not been receiving assistance before because they hadn't realized the qualified," he said.