Ohio’s labor market is improving, but a new report suggests the state can do more to increase the number of people with jobs while improving pay and benefits.

Policy Matters Ohio, a nonpartisan, left-leaning policy research organization, released a report this weekend looking at issues in Ohio’s economy while also proposing solutions that include increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, making unionization easier and providing public childcare.

“Ohio has deep inequalities along racial, gender and geographic lines,” Amy Hanauer, the report author and Policy Matters executive director, said in a news release. “Inequalities are exacerbated by weak labor markets, where employers often have the upper hand. Since the Great Recession, Ohio jobs and earnings have consistently trailed the nation.”

The 27-page report, “The State of Working Ohio 2017” said Ohio is one of “only a handful of states that still ... had fewer jobs that we had prior to the 2001 recession.”

According to the latest available figures, there were slightly more than 5.5 million people working in the state as of July, the report said.

“Big expansions to public childcare and public preschool would be job generating while also helping our youngest Ohioans be ready for kindergarten and helping their parents work,” the report said.

The organization also called for “deep investments” in wind, solar, insulation and transit that would not only create jobs but also reduce pollution.

While productivity has continued to grow, incomes have lagged, the report said.

“If we want pay to grow alongside productivity, we need to take steps to raise the compensation of regular workers,” the report said.

Also among the report’s findings:

• The state’s low unemployment rate is good news even though it has “crept back up” recently.

• While unemployment is low, Ohio still has not recovered all the jobs lost during the Great Recession.

• The nation is adding jobs at a faster rate than Ohio is.

• The unemployment rate at the end of 2016 for white workers was 4.1 percent, while the rate for black workers was 9.9 percent.

• The unemployment rate at the end of 2016 for men was 5.2 percent; the rate for women was 4.7 percent.

• The 13 most common occupations in Ohio – jobs held by more than 1.3 million state residents — pay less than $34,000 a year.

• Unionized workers on average make $4 an hour more than non-union workers, a difference of $8,000 a year.

“We know how to fix these problems and it isn’t giving more tax cuts to the wealthiest Ohioans,” Hanauer said. “Unions drive wages up and close race and gender gaps. Investments in energy and infrastructure create jobs and position us better for the future.

Education spending, from cradle to career, is good for the next generation and can help parents afford to work now. Better funded higher education would make college more accessible and help working class students get ahead.

The resources are there. We just need the vision and the will.”

Policy Matters Ohio, founded in 2000, has offices in Columbus and in Cleveland. The organization’s web site is www.policymattersohio.org