Butler County unemployment rebounded but was still double in 2020: What to know

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

New government data show the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Butler County unemployment during 2020, which doubled or nearly doubled previous years after a worse start.

According to preliminary figures, the annual unemployment rate for 2020 was more than twice that of 2019 in Middletown and Fairfield. It was also double or nearly double the annual levels in Hamilton and in Butler County as a whole.

Middletown’s preliminary unemployment rate for 2020 was 10.2 percent, compared with 4.9 percent a year earlier. Fairfield’s was 7.6 percent, up from 3.3 percent in 2019.

Hamilton’s annual rate was 8.5 percent, up from 4.3 percent. For Butler County as a whole, the annual rate was 7.2 percent, up from 3.8 percent, according to newly released figures from the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services.

Early in the pandemic, the numbers were more stark:

  • Unemployment in Fairfield jumped from 4.3 percent in March to 15.8 percent in April
  • In Middletown, it leapt from 5.8 percent in March to 19 percent in April
  • Hamilton’s rate went from 5.1 percent to 16.2 percent
  • Butler County’s rate more than tripled, from 4.4 percent to 14.2 percent

But there’s some good news in the data. Since those April highs, the unemployment rate has continually fallen in each jurisdiction. There have been some months when the rate remained the same, but none in which it has risen, according to Journal-News analysis of the data released Tuesday.

Often, unemployment rates are lower than the actual number of people without jobs. Those who have given up searching for jobs are not counted among the unemployed.

The data for December show a better picture, compared to 2019:

  • In Fairfield, 4.3 percent, up from 3.1 percent a year earlier
  • In Middletown, 6.5 percent, above the 4 percent last year
  • In Hamilton, 5.4 percent, up from 4 percent the prior December
  • In Butler County, 4.4 percent, up from 3.4 percent a year earlier
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In another bright spot, shops and restaurants have continued to open in Middletown, Hamilton and elsewhere. Middletown city spokeswoman Shelby Quinlivan said she believed seven businesses opened in the city’s downtown during 2020, despite the pandemic. Likewise, Ohio in 2020 saw a record number of new-business registrations.

“That was tremendous,” Quinlivan said about the new downtown business starts. “A lot of people have the grit and determination to make new businesses happen regardless of this pandemic that has been happening.”

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In Hamilton, Economic Development Specialist Stacey Dietrich-Dudas said city staff kept in close contact with manufacturers, discussing their employment numbers during the pandemic.

“They were making some small cuts last year from covid, but they felt they would be bouncing back in 2021,” Dietrich-Dudas said. “So they felt they would probably be back to their 2019 levels. That was always a good thing.”

“We never saw a big dip in the manufacturing side,” she said, adding the products they were making must have remained in demand.

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Massive job losses

Here’s how many people lost their jobs in various parts of Butler County between March and April of 2020:

  • 3,000 people in Hamilton lost their jobs. According to the rounded figures released by the state. The number of unemployed jumped from 1,400 to 4,400.
  • 2,800 in Middletown became unemployed. The number climbed from 1,200 to 4,000.
  • 2,800 in Fairfield also lost their jobs, with the number rising from 1,000 to 3,800.
  • 17,800 Butler Countians lost their jobs between March and April. The number of unemployed rose from 8,600 to 26,400.

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