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Jobless rates down in Franklin, Fulton counties

May 02, 2001

Jobless rates down in Franklin, Fulton counties



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


Unemployment rates in Franklin and Fulton counties dipped slightly in March but will probably shoot back up in the coming months due to recent layoffs and plant shutdowns, labor market analysts said.

The jobless figure for Franklin County was 5.1 percent, down from 5.5 percent in February, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.

In Fulton County, March figures also showed a drop to 6.4 percent, down from 6.7 percent in February.

Despite lower rates in March, both counties had significantly higher unemployment rates than they did a year ago. Joblessness in the two counties was also well above statewide and national unemployment rates.

The unemployment rate in March 2000 was 3.7 percent in Franklin County and 4.7 percent in Fulton County.

The state's unemployment rate for March 2001 was 4.9 percent. Nationally, it was 4.6 percent.

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Recent layoffs and temporary shutdowns could cause unemployment rates to rise again in coming months.

This week, World Kitchen announced it would lay off 63 workers at its Greencastle, Pa., distribution center.

On April 23, Flextronics, a manufacturing company in Chambersburg, said it would close its doors after nearly 80 years, letting 160 workers go.

Also last week, JLG Industries Inc. announced that two temporary shutdowns will affect 1,700 employees at its McConnellsburg, Pa., Shippensburg, Pa., and Bedford, Pa., facilities. The first shutdown began April 23 and lasts until Friday. The second runs from May 29 to June 1.

Wayne Schopf, a labor market analyst with the state Department of Labor, said the reality of recent layoffs probably won't be reflected until the May unemployment figures are available.

He attributed March's increase to a pick-up in construction, but said the latest announcements will reverse any of the gains.

L. Michael Ross, executive director of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., said March's numbers are good news for what's ahead, although he predicted the unemployment rate will jump in May or June before dipping in the second half of the year, with unemployment rates between 4.5 and 5.5 percent.

"I think the March figures have been somewhat of a revelation to a lot of people, because they reflect the economy is stronger than perceived," Ross said. "Our economy in March 2001 was not as good as in March 2000, but it was not as soft as we perceived it to be.

"We've been at historic lows the last 18 months."

Ross said the regional economy has helped many of those laid off in the last few months to find new jobs.

"We're fortunate to be part of a regional economy that is growing," Ross said. "When a company goes through a period of downsizing, there is a high possibility for the displaced individuals to find other employment in a commuting distance."

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