Morgan Schaffer, Staff Writer

Are unemployment rates really down in Butler County or is the economy still on a slow decline? According to Angela Terez of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the numbers show a decrease in the unemployment rate with it being the lowest it has been since 2008.

“The preliminary 2011 annual unemployment rate for Butler County was 9 percent, down from 9.6 percent in 2010,” Terez said. “The preliminary 2011 annual unemployment rate for Hamilton city was 10.2 percent, down from 11.1 percent in 2010.”

While that is what the numbers say, business representative for Work Force One, a career center connecting employers with their future employees, Stewart Leonard said he has not noticed any kind of decrease in the unemployment rate.

“At the end of last year, we were at the highest unemployment,” Leonard said.

He also said that from what he has perceived, the unemployment rate is not decreasing at all. Based on the statistics of unemployment, he said he was not in agreement.

“We have heard just the contrary,” Leonard said. “We do a rapid response to go into businesses to tell employees what will happen when they get laid off. We have already done two of those [this year], a total of 375 people. The layoffs have not occurred yet but they are supposed to occur next month.”

Leonard said the two companies that went through the rapid response program were Smart Paper and Diversapack. Smart Paper is laying off 200 people and Diversapack is laying off 175. Pella, Jim Beam and Mohawk Paper were a few other companies who went through rapid response before laying off employees in 2011.

“Over the past five years, we have seen a steady decline,” Leonard said. “At the third quarter of last year, we were almost at 9 percent unemployment.”

Perception and experiences vary. Statistically, based on the information supplied by Terez, the unemployment rate is down. Looking at individual businesses, however, may cause a different perception. Oxford has seen new businesses open up and expand, according to Alan Kyger, which helps the economy.

“We have been fortunate in Oxford in 2010 and 2011, we have had far more businesses open up and expand then close,” Kyger said. “Businesses don’t have to register with the city [to open up] so we really don’t know how many employees they have.”

Kyger also said the city does not require individual business figures to be released, so most people really do not have access specific statistics.