A little while back, Nelson Schwartz, a standout economic reporter for the New York Times, visited a humming factory complex in Youngstown, Ohio. He found a feel-good story of Rust Belt revival, powered by hydraulic fracturing. Katy George, the head of the global manufacturing practice at McKinsey, told Schwartz that new energy development  is “a real game-changer in terms of the U.S. economy.” Schwartz described the effect in Youngstown and the Rust Belt in his story this week:

“The turnaround is part of a transformation spreading across the heartland of the nation, driven by a surge in domestic oil and gas production that is changing the economic calculus for old industries and downtrodden cities alike.
“Here in Ohio, in an arc stretching south from Youngstown past Canton and into the rural parts of the state where much of the natural gas is being drawn from shale deep underground, entire sectors like manufacturing, hotels, real estate and even law are being reshaped. A series of recent economic indicators, including factory hiring, shows momentum building nationally in the manufacturing sector.”

I also used to drop in on Youngstown from time to time, first as a politics reporter for the Blade in Toledo, and then as a Washington reporter for the Chicago Tribune. I was there in 2008, when I visited a shuttered factory, and I described Youngstown as “a city that doesn’t work nearly as much as it used to.”

Oddly enough, in February 2008, there were 13,000 more jobs in the Youngstown metro area than there were this summer.

The Times is correct that fracking has boosted economies in Ohio and other oil-and-gas-rich states and helped drive increased industrial production in America. In some areas, such as Youngstown, capital investment has rained down from the energy industry and companies that support it.

It’s also true, as Schwartz writes, that “the new factories that have gone up … employ only a fraction of the workers who once labored at Youngstown’s mills.”

You can see that in the manufacturing stats for the region, which resemble a 20-year free fall landing on a rather small trampoline:

The story is roughly the same for factory employment throughout Ohio:

The one dramatic recent jump in the state has been direct employment in oil and gas extraction:

Here that is in absolute terms, though — it’s a couple thousand jobs created since the recession ended.

It’s great to focus on the rebound that fracking has brought to Youngstown and areas like it, and it’s great to hear optimistic quotes from local residents who were not, in my past reporting trips, usually upbeat about their prospects.

It’s also important to look at all the new activity from a worker’s perspective. Youngstown was already losing jobs during the last decade, even before the recession hit. To get back to its 2000 peak, you’d need to create another 30,000 jobs —  triple what’s come along since the recession ended. That would be a calculus-changer, no question about it.