CLEVELAND — Torah Carey Wyatt is a Cleveland mother of four, who has words of encouragement for the more than 200,000 Ohioans who have still not found their way back into the workforce due to the ongoing pandemic.
Carey Wyatt knows about the difficulties and pain that go along with pandemic-related job loss firsthand, after losing her job with a Northeast Ohio daycare in March 2020.
“Before the pandemic hit, I would have never expected to lose my job," Carey Wyatt said. “It was pretty hard to get money, so my mind was really just all over the place trying to figure out how to take care of my sons and keep up with these bills.”
“In fact, me and my children actually ended up in a homeless shelter, a homeless shelter in downtown Cleveland. We were in the homeless shelter for at least six months.”
But Carey Wyatt was able to rally in 2021, starting her own successful event planning business called Torah's Decor and Balloon, working with the Indigo Luxe Party Center in South Euclid and other locations to plan dozens of events and give her family a brighter future.
“I just started doing decorations for parties and events and it just became a business," Carey Wyatt said. "It blew up bigger than I ever imagined. You know I make more as an entrepreneur than I ever did as an employee.”
The latest Ohio employment report compiled by Policy Matters Ohio shows that Carey Wyatt isn't alone in working toward finding a better job.
Policy Matters Ohio researcher Michael Shields told News 5 even though federal and state data shows 141,000 Ohioans quit their jobs in November 2021, many of those workers were able to find better employment, with Ohio now showing four consecutive months of job growth.
“We had a lot of Ohioans leave their jobs, but they didn’t leave work, they found better jobs," Shields said, “Even though this is the biggest job loss in both overall terms and percentage loss that we’ve ever seen, compared to the great recession, we’re recovering jobs in about half the time.”
Shields said even though Ohio's unemployment rate of 4.5% is still lagging behind the national employment rate of 3.9%, he believes if the state continues its current pace, all of the remaining 204,000 jobs lost during the pandemic will be recovered by the end of 2022.
Shields believes Ohio lawmakers should push for continued growth in the state minimum wage, which has now been moved up to $9.30 an hour and work toward improving the use and distribution of federal pandemic dollars.
“The takeaway for policymakers is that it’s government's job to help drive a rapid recovery, and one that is equitable, and one that includes everybody, Shields said. “So we know that wages are a sticking point, that they are slowing our recovery. As for American Rescue Plan funds, we have to make sure that we are spending that money in ways that are really targeted to helping the folks who have been most impacted, not only by the health crisis but also by job loss."
Meanwhile, Carey Wyatt, who is also and cancer survivor, has a message for Northeast Ohioans who have not yet been able to get back into the local workforce.
“Don’t ever give up, don’t ever give up," Carey Wyatt said. "I don’t care how low, how broken, or without you are. Your dreams are your dreams, they belong to you, and you can do anything, anything you put your mind to.”