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Unemployment rates drop in Franklin, Fulton counties

May 03, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Manufacturing and construction jobs held steady for the third month in a row, according to the latest unemployment report, but Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross believes that sector is poised for rapid growth.

The jobless rate in Franklin County fell from 4.2 percent in February to 3.8 percent in March, according to preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

In the labor market area that includes Franklin and Fulton counties, about 400 jobs were added in the service sector, the report said. The number of manufacturing jobs in the market remained unchanged at 10,700 and construction held steady at 2,600.

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"We're looking at the strong possibility of having historically low unemployment rates by mid-summer," Ross said. Major original equipment manufacturers in the region, such as JLG, Grove Worldwide, Mack Trucks, Jerr-Dann and Ingersoll Rand, have been or will be hiring, he said.

"That creates a ripple effect" that will help companies that supply parts and services to those manufacturers, Ross said.

"Manufacturing employment is going to jump and I think it's going to jump significantly," he said.

A shortage of skilled labor could be a problem, he said.

"I've been watching the unemployment rates for years, especially in my district," said state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, whose 33rd District includes all of Franklin and Adams counties and a portion of western York County.

"It shows our economic development initiatives are working, both in the retention of existing jobs and the creation of new ones," he said.

"We've had some successes and failures. We've had failures through downsizing" of companies, Punt said.

The trend, however, has been more jobs coming to the area than leaving.

The number of people working in Franklin County rose by 900 for the month to 63,400, while the number listed as unemployed fell by 300 to 2,500, according to department figures. The report shows that 2,600 more people are working in the county than in March 2003 when the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.

Fulton County saw employment go up by 100 to 6,200, while there was a corresponding drop in the number of jobless from 400 to 300. That sent the jobless rate falling from 7.8 percent to 6.4 percent. The March 2003 rate was 8 percent.

The number of nonfarm jobs grew by 300 to 55,000, the report stated.

The jobless rate for the Franklin-Fulton labor market area dropped from 4.5 percent to 4 percent, ranking it fifth among the 43 labor market areas in the state, according to the department. State College, Pa., had the lowest at 3.8 percent.

Franklin County was tied with Centre County for the third-lowest jobless rate in the state.

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in March. Nationally, the rate was 6 percent.

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