Clark County generated 700 new jobs in 2012 and maintained unemployment rates below Ohio and national averages in recent months, according to a new state report.
Unemployment rates in both Clark and Champaign counties remained virtually the same from November to December, but unemployment decreased more than 2 percentage points for the year, an Ohio Department of Job and Family Services report released Tuesday said.
“The economy will continue to slowly improve through 2013, and we think the state will continue to add jobs,” said Ben Johnson, ODJFS spokesman. “But again, we’re talking about a slow recovery, which is what we’ve seen since the recession. It could be months where the unemployment rate climbs slightly or plateaus — a lot remains to be seen.”
For example, Clark County’s December unemployment rate was 6.4 percent, up slightly from 6.3 percent in November and down from 8 percent in December 2011.
In Champaign County, the unemployment rate stayed at 6.2 percent in December, which is down from 7.5 percent in December 2011.
Both counties have had unemployment rates in the 6 percent range for the last four months.
Clark and Champaign counties have both improved rates but for different reasons, Johnson said. In Champaign County, more people are finding work. In Clark County, new jobs have helped but the rate also is lower because more people have dropped out of the workforce.
The labor force in Champaign County decreased by about 100 people in 2012. In Clark County, it decreased by around 500 people, according to ODJFS data.
“That’s where we get into talking about people who have given up in looking for work, who go into early retirement or are going back to school,” Johnson said.
He said that for true economic growth, both the number of people employed and the number of people in the labor force need to improve.
“In previous recessions we have seen periods of time where labor force has grown enough that the unemployment rate has increased slightly over a period of time,” Johnson said. “That hasn’t happened yet in Ohio. What we’ve seen instead is slow growth, and there’s no denying that it’s job growth.”
But local people looking for employment are still skeptical of economic improvement.
“I don’t think the economy has improved,” said Michelle Overton, a St. Paris resident who attended a job fair in New Carlisle in October. She said she has been talking with other people in her field, accounting, and they have all had trouble finding jobs.
Overton found a job in Springfield and has been working full-time for more than a month. She said it was a unique situation where a position opened up during reorganization of a company.
But Springfield officials expect the upcoming year to be more promising than recent years. Mayor Warren Copeland said potential job-creating projects are in the works, including Prime Ohio II and the Champion City Business Park in the former Navistar International site.
“We expect to see more happening in the next 3 to 4 years than in the last 2 years,” Copeland said.
Copeland said most new jobs are created by existing employers rather than new businesses, and that the city and Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce are working to keep in contact with employers to find out what company plans are and how local officials can help.
The 700 jobs created in 2012 “is basically recovery from the recession, and in Ohio and here locally, that’s gone faster than anywhere else,” Copeland said.