Ohio State Fair ‘Midway Mood’ Reflects Brighter Consumer Surveys

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The Ohio Gate welcomes state fair visitors on 11th Avenue. The 2014 fair runs through Sunday, August 3rd.(Photo: courtesy Ohio State Fair)
The Ohio Gate welcomes state fair visitors on 11th Avenue. The 2014 fair runs through Sunday, August 3rd.(Photo: courtesy Ohio State Fair)

New surveys indicate consumers are feeling better. Consumer confidence is the highest in more than 5 years. The highest since the Great Recession. The brighter outlook is also evident this year along the Midway at the Ohio State Fair.

As a roaming Polka Band plays, the state fair midway is jammed. Tens of thousands of visitors come annually to the Fair and this year they’re more upbeat. Tim and Kathy Miller of Tiro and Kim Covey of Bucyrus are shopping for souvenir tee-shirts. All three say they’re opening their wallets and pocketbooks a bit more this year.

“Wherever the food takes us. Yeah, we have a pocketful of money. His tummy takes us to the food,” says Kathy Miller.

Kim Covey adds:

“I took about $80 in cash and my debit card in case it wasn’t enough.”

The Midway mood reflects both national and regional economic surveys. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland says banks are lending more money. Retail sales, including sales of new cars, are climbing slowly and payrolls are growing. Covey and the Millers say they see concrete evidence of economic growth.

“There’s more jobs that came about within the last few years that they kind of cut. We actually welcomed back our B-M-V just a few weeks ago. So getting a B-M-V back in your community is a good thing.” says Covey.

“There’s jobs coming back. The American people are ready to work. They just need jobs.” says Tim Miller.

“You see them online all the time, you know, when you can go online and look up a job and there’s a lot of listings that weren’t there a few years back.” says Kathy Miller.

Ohio’s unemployment rate has fallen steadily since January from 6.9% to 5.5%. Joshua Brooker brought his family to the state fair. He started a new job as an auto mechanic last week.

Q: Why do you think the economy is doing better right now? “Because the government’s pushing money back in the economy for a stimulus. That’s making a lot of difference,” says Brooker.

Retiree Willie Hall of Columbus is less optimistic. He says he’ll stick to his state fair budget of about $50. Hall worked for decades for a chemical manufacturer. He says while Ohio is starting to turnaround, It’s worse off economically than some western states.

“Unemployment’s still too high. You’ve got to get that down and more productivity before things get better.”

Paul Smith of Dublin makes a finer distinction. He works for a staffing agency and sees the Central Ohio job market from the front lines.

“The Blue collar jobs are done but the white collar and high tech and things like that are pretty good,” says Smith.

Smith smiles as he walks toward the skyride. The Midway is nearly full of visitors and like Smith many are feeling more positive about their financial future.