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Franklin Co. jobless numbers up slightly

March 11, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The end of the holidays brought an end to six months of decreasing unemployment in Franklin County as retailers shed employees and the jobless rate rose from 3.1 percent in December to 4.1 percent in January, according to preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The January rate, however, was still below the 5.4 percent unemployment rate in the county in January 2003, according to the report. The report stated the increase was "not unusual for January, thanks to a seasonal post-holiday drop in employment."

"The increase was not unexpected because a lot of companies had ramped up for the holidays," said L. Michael Ross, President of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

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Despite the higher jobless rate, Franklin County improved its position from the fifth- to fourth-lowest unemployment rate among the state's 67 counties. Neighboring Cumberland County was first with a rate of 3.3 percent, the report said.

"The fact that we're still the fourth lowest bodes well for Franklin County," Ross said. While he expects the employment picture to be very good in 2004, Ross said very low unemployment is a "double-edged sword."

Companies considering location here look at many factors, including the availability of labor, he said. Unemployment throughout the Cumberland Valley, which takes in the Harrisburg area and Cumberland, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, remains low compared with the rest of the state, according to Labor and Industry figures.

The number of people working in the county was off by 300 to 62,800 and there was a big jump in the number of people listed as unemployed from 2,000 to 2,700, the report stated.

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in January, according to the report.

Unemployment in Fulton County went from 4.8 percent in December to 5.5 percent in January. The rate was 7 percent below the January 2003 figure of 12.5 percent, the report stated.

The number of people working was essentially unchanged at 6,200, but the number of jobless increased from 300 to 400, according to Department figures.

Retail jobs fell from 6,900 in December to 6,600 in January in the two-county labor market, according to the report. Manufacturing was down by 100 jobs to 10,700 and construction employment also fell by 100 to 2,600.

While most job categories showed small losses or remained unchanged, leisure and hospitality jobs, primarily in hotels and restaurants, was up 200 to 4,600 and a miscellaneous category called "other services" showed an increase of 100 jobs to 3,000.

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