Franklin, Fulton counties enjoy low unemployment

February 02, 1999|By DON AINES

YORK, Pa. - A strong national economy helped the unemployment rates for Franklin and Fulton counties drop substantially from 1997 to 1998, according to figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Unemployment in Franklin County averaged about 3.8 percent for 1998, compared to 4.9 percent in 1997, said Labor Market Analyst Larry Baugher.

In Fulton county the drop was even more dramatic. Baugher said the average fell from 7.8 percent in 1997 to 4.1 percent last year.

"Basically, it's the same as you've seen with the national economy," Baugher said Monday. Consumer confidence remains high and interest rates low across the nation, he said.


Franklin County Area Development Corp. Executive Director L. Michael Ross agreed. "We were the beneficiaries of maybe the strongest economy in the post-World War II era," Ross said Monday. He predicted the first half of 1999 could be even stronger.

"I sound like a broken record, but the Interstate 81 corridor right now is very active from Carlisle (Pa.) to Winchester, Va.," Ross said. Despite troubles in Asia, he said the global economy has contributed to the strong jobs picture.

Ross said one cloud on the horizon was recent layoffs announced by Grove Worldwide in Shady Grove, Pa., Franklin County's largest private employer.

He said the area's success creates a different set of employment problems.

"The biggest concern we hear from businesses in Franklin County and the region is the inability to meet their labor demands," Ross said.

That has prompted regional efforts to create private-public partnerships to train workers for emerging industries and retrain others for the increasingly technical environment of the workplace.

"Some existing companies are concerned about new businesses meaning more competition for labor," he said.

The jobless rate in Franklin County fell from 4.1 percent in November to 3.6 percent in December, Baugher said. The preliminary figures were released Tuesday. The figures showed 62,400 people working and 2,300 unemployed.

That's 100 fewer people working than in January 1998, said Baugher. At the same time, the number of people listed as unemployed fell by 700 to 2,300.

The number of people working was unchanged in Fulton County from January to December at 6,400. Baugher said the number of unemployed people dropped from 500 to 300 from one end of the year to the other.

Fulton County's unemployment rate went up from 3.7 percent in November to 4.3 percent in December, according to Baugher.

In the fall of 1997, however, the jobless rate reached almost 20 percent because of layoffs at the county's biggest employer, JLG Industries in McConnellsburg, Pa.

Franklin County had the 19th lowest unemployment rate among Pennsylvania's 67 counties in December. Fulton County was tied with two other counties for 27th.

Pennsylvania's December jobless rate was 4.4 percent. The national rate was 4.3 percent.

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