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Jobless rate dips slightly in Franklin County

May 14, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The jobless rate in Franklin County fell slightly from 5.6 percent in February to 5.4 percent in March, matching the jobless rate in March 2002, according to preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The department report said the unemployment picture for the Franklin-Fulton Labor Market Area was "comparable to rates in 1993. If the LMA continues to follow the pattern of 1993, expect unemployment rates to continue to drop slowly and consistently."

Heavy precipitation in March likely slowed some industries which traditionally pick up in the spring, such as construction and lumber, according to the report.

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Nonfarm employment for the two counties rose by 300 in March to 53,900, according to the report. That was up 1,300 from the same time last year.

Goods producing jobs remained unchanged from the February figure of 12,700, but manufacturing jobs have declined from 11,100 in March 2002 to 10,100 in March of this year. Heavy machinery manufacturers such as Grove Worldwide in Shady Grove, Pa., have laid off workers over the past year because of the soft market for those products.

While the manufacturing sector did not lose any jobs, Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross said that part of the local economy may add jobs in upcoming months.

"A number of our smaller machine shops have reported an up-tick in business in the last 60 days," Ross said.

"I think it should improve the remainder of the year and we're very optimistic about 2004," he said.

All the job growth was in the service sector, led by increases in health services, leisure and hospitality and local government, where approximately 100 workers were added in each category, according to the report.

"The health care industry is growing and Summit Health is the largest employer in Franklin County" with 2,300 full- and part-time employees, according to Ken Shur, the vice president and chief operating officer at Waynesboro Hospital.

Shur said hiring at Waynesboro was relatively flat for the past year, but the hospital's proposed budget for the year beginning July 1 would add the equivalent of eight to 10 full-time positions. He said there is a need for more diagnostic imaging technologists, nurses and critical care nurses, among other positions.

He said health care has a ripple effect on the economy, citing a Penn State study that showed each new position in health care, whether in a hospital, physician's or dentist's office or nursing home, "creates 2.5 jobs in the general community."

Franklin County's jobless rate ranked 14th lowest among Pennsylvania's 67 counties. Fulton County, where the rate fall from 9.2 to 8 percent, was tied for 50th place.

Fulton County's rate was little changed from March 2002, when the department reported a jobless figure of 7.9 percent.

The labor force was unchanged in Fulton County at 6,600, while the number of people with jobs rose by 100 to 6,100. Labor and Industry listed 500 people as unemployed.

In January the Fulton County jobless rate was 12.7 percent with 900 people listed as unemployed.

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