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Staples lays off 25, but unemployment rates dip

February 01, 2002

Staples lays off 25, but unemployment rates dip



By STACEY DANZUSO
chbbureau@innernet.net


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Unemployment rates in Franklin County dipped in December, but another company announced the layoff of 25 workers this week.

The national office supply chain Staples let go 25 employees at its Chambersburg distribution center Wednesday as part of a seasonal adjustment, said Deborah Hohler, a Staples spokeswoman.

That leaves 179 workers at the distribution center, she said.

The 25 local jobs are part of 326 jobs eliminated companywide. About half of the positions were slashed from the corporate headquarters in Framingham, Mass., to keep the company competitive in current economic conditions, Hohler said.

No employees at Staples retail stores in Chambersburg and Hagerstown were affected.

Staples reported $11 billion in sales of offices supplies, business services, furniture and technology last year and employs 51,000 people worldwide.

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It has more than 1,300 stores and plans to add 120 stores and 12,000 jobs this year. Hohler would not say if any of the stores planned are for the Tri-State area.

Despite news of the layoffs, the economic picture of Franklin County looks positive with the opening of the anxiously-awaited Kmart facility this week, said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation.

Kmart opened its 800,000-square-foot distribution center in the Chambers-5 Business Park Monday, allaying fears Kmart's Chapter 11 filing could affect the project.

"The facility is not 100 percent complete, but they are receiving product and expected to fully utilize the facility over the next several months," Ross said. "This does bring speculation to an end."

The county's unemployment rate also remained low in December at 4.2 percent, down from 4.5 percent in November, according to preliminary figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry this week.

That's below both the state unemployment average of 5.1 percent and national 5.8 percent unemployment rate.

In Fulton County, the unemployment rate dropped from 7.5 percent in November to 7.2 percent in December, according to the Labor Department's figures.

The decrease is due in part to holiday hiring.

"My sense is in January the rate will go back up slightly," Ross said.

But that is still no need to worry, he said.

"Anytime you have an unemployment rate of 5 percent or less, essentially you are at full employment," he said.

Franklin County has mostly remained below the 5 percent mark for the last four years, despite downsizings at several companies.

"That is reflective of a relatively diverse and stable economy," Ross said. "We are able to offset some losses at Grove and Flextronics with the expansions of other companies. Kmart coming on line and others will be able to absorb some layoffs."

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