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Franklin Co. jobless rate unchanged

January 04, 2004|by DON AINES

More people were working in Franklin County in November than October, but the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.3 percent, according to preliminary figures released this past week by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The number of people employed rose by 900 to 63,800, led in part by seasonal increases in agriculture, retail trade and local government, according to the department survey. The number of people unemployed was unchanged at 2,200, but the state recorded an increase of 1,000 in the civilian labor force to 66,000.

The rate has Franklin tied for the fourth lowest among Pennsylvania's 67 counties with Chester, Snyder and Lancaster counties. The state's lowest unemployment rate was 2.7 percent in Centre County.

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"We basically have full employment," Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas said of the low jobless rate.

"It's always good news when people are working, but there continues to be a challenge with under-employment in our region," he said.

"This community lost a lot of good-paying jobs when Letterkenny Army Depot down-sized," Thomas said of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission decision to transfer some missions to other depots. "We've replaced most of those jobs, but not with the same wages," he said.

"Employers, conversely, are having a difficult time filling positions and keeping them filled," according to Thomas. That was the main reason a group of area businesses recently formed the Basic Employment Skills Training Consortium, or BEST, to create a pool of people for their businesses.

Applications for the BEST program are available through the Franklin County CareerLink office on Norland Avenue. The first five-week class begins Feb. 2 at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

The Labor and Industry report showed the jobless rate in Fulton County moved downward from 4.1 to 3.9 percent. The county now has the 13th lowest unemployment rate in the state and third lowest among counties with labor forces under 20,000.

The number of people working in Fulton County went up 100 to 6,300 while the number of jobless remained steady at 300.

In the two-county labor market, the number of non-farm jobs fell by 300 to 54,900. November saw manufacturing jobs down by 300 to 10,700, after several months during which industry jobs were on the rise.

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