Ohio has been a leading manufacturing state since the mid-1800s. During the last two decades of the 20th century, Ohio became the nation's leader in machine-tool manufacturing, the 2nd leading steel producer, and a pioneer in oil refining and in the production of automobiles and automotive parts, such as rubber tires.

In recent decades, Ohio has become important as a manufacturer of glassware, soap, matches, paint, business machines, refrigerators—and even comic books and Chinese food products. In 1997, the value of manufacturing shipments was estimated at $246 billion, ranked 3rd in the nation. In 1997, Ohio was the headquarters to 29 Fortune 500 companies.

Earnings of persons employed in Ohio increased from $197.6 billion in 1997 to $208.4 billion in 1998, an increase of 5.3%. The largest industries in 1998 were services, 24.9% of earnings; durable goods manufacturing, 18.5%; and state and local government, 10.5%. Of the industries that accounted for at least 5% of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was durable goods manufacturing, which increased 3.6%; the fastest was finance, insurance, and real estate (6.4% of earnings in 1998), which increased 9.4%.