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Franklin jobless rate hits 11-year low at 3 percent

May 30, 2000|By DON AINES

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The strong national economy is continuing to make itself felt in Southcentral Pennsylvania, with Franklin County posting its lowest unemployment rate in 11 years, according to figures released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The jobless rate for the county declined for the third month in a row, dropping from 3.7 percent in March to 3 percent in April, according to Labor Market Analyst Wayne Schopf. The national rate was 3.9 percent and Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 3.8 percent last month, Schopf said.

"The national rate is at an all-time low, and that carries over to the states," according to Schopf. The county rate was the lowest since it hit 2.8 percent in December 1989, he said.

The number of people with jobs increased by 300 to 61,300 and the number of jobless fell by 400 to 1,900, the monthly report said. Contributing to the decline was a decrease of 200 in the labor force, which was 63,200.

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Fulton County saw its rate drop from 4.6 to 3.2 percent in April as the number of unemployed fell from 300 to 200. The labor force remained steady at 6,500 and the number with jobs was up 100 to 6,300, the report said.

Essentially all of the increase in employment came in construction, industrial machinery manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade and miscellaneous jobs, the report said. In the two counties, the number of construction jobs was up 200 to 2,500, according to the statistics.

"It's tough to find people, but they're available," said John Boozer, president of Paul E. Lehman Inc., a commercial and industrial contractor in Chambersburg with 54 employees. The company is looking to hire more carpenters, steel workers, laborers and project managers, but the labor market is tight with unemployment so low, he said.

Industrial machinery jobs increased by 100 to 8,100. That was offset by a decrease of 100 in printing and publishing jobs, which fell to 1,000. Manufacturing jobs in the two counties were up 200 for the month to 18,000.

Service-sector employment was up 200 to 37,700, the report said. Other than wholesale, retail and miscellaneous, all other service categories were flat from March to April.

During the first four months of this year, the jobless rate in Franklin County has averaged about 3.8 percent, according to department figures. Unemployment in the county averaged 4.3 percent in 1999.

Franklin County ranked 14th lowest among the state's 67 counties. Fulton County was 18th lowest, Schopf said.

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