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Franklin County jobless rate dips to 3 percent

November 02, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The number of people working in Franklin County fell in September, but so did the unemployment rate, hitting a four-year low, according to preliminary figures released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The jobless rate fell from 3.4 percent in August to 3 percent in September, the lowest since April 2000, according to Walter Nichols, an industry and business analyst. The jobless rate was as low as 3.1 percent in December 2003, he said.

"We're fortunate that, at this time, we seem to be clicking on all cylinders," Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross said of the local economy. Low unemployment, however, "brings its own set of challenges" for businesses looking for qualified employees in a tight labor market, he said.

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While the jobs picture looks good now, Ross said that could change dramatically next year, depending on whether the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decides to close Letterkenny Army Depot. The depot employs about 2,000 federal workers.

The labor force, those working or seeking work, contracted by 900 to 67,000 in September, the report stated. The number of people working was down by 500 in September to 65,000, according to the report, while the number listed as unemployed fell by 300 to 2,000.

Nichols said such changes are not unusual in September when students return to high school and college and remove themselves from the labor force.

Nichols said, however, part of the decrease could be the result of "an increase in the number of discouraged workers," those who have stopped looking for jobs. He said the department does not track those figures for individual counties.

Local government jobs in Franklin and Fulton counties, many of which are with school districts, rose by 900 to 5,100, according to the survey. That accounted for the most of the increase in non-farm jobs in the two-county labor market from 54,800 in August to 55,800 in September, according to the report.

Educational and health services jobs rose by 100 to 8,300, the report stated. Leisure and hospitality employment fell by 200 in September to 4,500.

Manufacturing jobs rose by 100 to 10,700 from August to September. Transportation, warehousing and utility employment increased by 200 positions to 3,300, according to state figures.

For the third month in a row, department figures showed no changes in the labor force, work force and unemployment numbers in Fulton County. The jobless rate, however, increased from 4.2 percent to 4.7 percent in September, a change the department indicates is attributable to rounding of numbers.

Fulton County had 6,400 people working and 300 unemployed, according to the report.

The jobless rate for Pennsylvania was 5.3 percent in September. Nationally, it was 5.4 percent.

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