Northeast Ohio’s hospitals, doctors’ offices and outpatient medical facilities increasingly are becoming the heart of the region’s economy.
The health-care industry is the area’s largest employment growth sector, jumping from about 149,000 employees in 2000 to nearly 177,000 this year, according to a report released today by business attraction group Team NEO.
The latest version of Team NEO’s quarterly economic indicators report for Northeast Ohio focuses on the health-care industry, which includes hospitals, offices of doctors and other health-care providers, outpatient centers, medical and diagnostic laboratories and other outpatient services. Nursing homes and home-health agencies are not included.
The industry is a growing fraction of Northeast Ohio’s overall economy, making up about 7 percent of the region’s expected $197 billion overall gross product this year and nearly 9 percent of employment, according to Team NEO.
Manufacturing still is the leading sector, comprising 19 percent of Northeast Ohio’s gross product and 13 percent of employment.
In Summit County, hospitals dominate the largest employer list.
Summa Health System is the county’s largest employer, with about 10,000 workers. Akron General Health System also is among the biggest employers, with nearly 5,000 employees.
“We don’t want to forget that our hospitals do a lot more than just deal with illness,” said Tom Waltermire, Team NEO’s chief executive officer. “They also generate innovation and ideas that turn into growth.”
The report highlights growth in medical-related research by Northeast Ohio medical institutions and universities, which nearly doubled from $370 million in 2000 to $660 million in 2012.
“When the region is investing in research and developing new technology, that is the kind of thing that really propels the economy over a long period of time,” Waltermire said.
The number of invention disclosures, a precursor to patents, filed by Northeast Ohio medical institutions increased from 179 in 2000 to 530 in 2012, according to the Team NEO report.
In the Akron area, the founding partners of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron filed a combined 358 invention disclosures from 2010 through 2013, compared to 11 from 2001 through 2009.
The BioInnovation Institute’s founding partners include Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Medical Center, Summa Health System, Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) and the University of Akron. (Akron General and NEOMED are no longer full partners.)
Health-care economists have said health-care jobs have limits as an economic engine, particularly with increased pressure from consumers, employers and the government to reduce medical costs.
Waltermire acknowledged health-care spending could decline as a result of the federal health-care reform law and other efforts.
“That’s not a bad thing because you’d have more money to spend on other things,” he said.
Also in the quarterly report:
• The region’s total employment averaged almost 1.9 million workers in the fourth quarter of 2013 — an increase of about 9,700 from the same time period a year earlier and 14th consecutive quarter of year-over-year employment growth.
• Northeast Ohio’s unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2013 was 7.1 percent, a slight increase from 7.0 percent a year earlier.
• The service sector added more than 9,000 workers, construction added nearly 1,200 workers and manufacturing remained flat in 2013’s fourth quarter compared to 2012.
• The vacancy rate for industrial space throughout Northeast Ohio dropped to 8.1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, while the office space vacancy rate remained steady at 11.4 percent.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or email@example.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/CherylPowellABJ.