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Jobless rates down in Franklin, Fulton counties

March 07, 2001

Jobless rates down in Franklin, Fulton counties



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


HARRISBURG, Pa. - Higher unemployment rates in Franklin and Fulton counties in January triggered by the layoffs of seasonal and manufacturing employees could be a sign of a slowing economy, said one labor analyst.

"Nationwide, the slowdown of manufacturing and retail trade is well documented," said Wayne Schopf, a labor market analyst for the state. "From my perspective, it's too early to tell, but it looks like things are slowing down, and I guess there would be some reason to be concerned."

Preliminary figures from the state Department of Labor and Industry show the unemployment rate in Franklin County rose from 4 percent in December to 4.4 percent in January. In Fulton County, unemployment rose from 4.6 percent to 5.8 percent over the same period.

Schopf attributed some of the increases to the layoffs in construction and retail holiday help.

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"What happens in the fall is retail trade builds up for Christmas, and in January they lay off all of those people," he said.

But area manufacturers have also laid off a steady stream of employees.

Grove Worldwide announced Jan. 19 it would cut another 290 workers, adding to several hundred other employees it laid off in September and October.

Also in January, Landis Gardner of Waynesboro laid off 40 production and office workers because of downturns in the auto industry. Beck Manufacturing also made cutbacks, but officials at the Greencastle manufacturing plant have declined to say how many workers were laid off.

Schopf doesn't expect the numbers to be any better for February, when remaining holiday help and additional construction workers were let go.

And this week, Frick Co. announced it would eliminate 30 jobs at the Waynesboro facility over the next four months.

Helen Marsteller, a consultant for Frick Co., said the company and union have been in talks since the start of the year about the company's decision to out-source the manufacture of some small component parts. The decision to out-source prompted the layoffs, Marsteller said.

Schopf said he does not know when things will turn around.

"We will have to wait and see if lowering the interest rates or if the proposed tax cut is passed, if that's enough to turn things around," he said.

In January, Franklin County had a total work force of 63,600, with 60,800 employed and 2,800 unemployed.

Fulton County recorded a workforce of 6,600, with 6,200 employed and 400 unemployed.

Both counties had higher unemployment rates in January than the state and the nation. Pennsylvania's rate was 4.3 percent and the nation's was 4.2 percent in January.

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