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Number of goods-producing job declining in Franklin, Fulton

December 29, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The unemployment rate in Franklin County remained unchanged from October to November at 3.1 percent, but what industries people are working in has shifted over the past three years, according to the monthly report from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Since the end of the last recession in November 2001, the number of people employed in goods-producing jobs in the labor market made up of Franklin and Fulton counties has declined by 2.8 percent to its current level of 13,700, according to the report. The category includes construction, mining, natural resources and manufacturing, but the decline has been almost completely in manufacturing.

During the same period, the category of education and health services has added 900 jobs for a total of 8,400, a 12 percent increase, according to department figures. That category includes private school employment, but is primarily made up of health-care workers, according to Walter Nichols, a business and industry analyst with the department.

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The category does not include public school teachers, who are listed as local government employees in the monthly reports, he said.

Since 1994, education and health services has added 3,000 jobs, an increase of more than 55 percent, Nichols said. The category includes those who provide direct health-care services to patients, such as doctors, nurses, technicians and orderlies working in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and private medical practices, he said.

Franklin County's largest employer is Summit Health, which owns both Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals, according to the Franklin County Area Development Corp. According to Summit Health's annual report, it employs approximately 2,400 people.

Direct caregivers, including registered nurses, diagnostic imaging technicians and laboratory technicians, will always be in demand, said Ken Shur, vice president and chief operating officer at Waynesboro Hospital. Because of the increased volume of surgeries performed at the hospital, he said there is a particular need for surgical technicians.

Menno Haven Inc., which runs both the Menno Village and Penn Hall retirement communities in Chambersburg, has seen the number of employees grow from the equivalent of 380 full-time positions in 1994 to 440 now, according to Chief Financial Officer David Bishop.

"In the next five to 10 years it will have surpassed manufacturing, even if manufacturing doesn't decline," Nichols said of health services.

Along with a shift in some manufacturing jobs overseas, Nichols said manufacturing in general has seen gains in productivity that require fewer people to produce the same amount of goods.

As the population ages and baby boomers begin to retire, the reliance on health-care services will continue to increase here and nationwide, Nichols said.

Service sector employment in Franklin and Fulton counties, which includes education and health services, has grown 9.6 percent since November 2001, adding 3,700 jobs for a total of 42,400. The report stated the service sector added 200 jobs in November.

At 3.1 percent, Franklin County has the third lowest jobless rate among Pennsylvania's 67 counties, the report stated. Fulton County's unemployment rate decreased from 4.9 percent to 4.6 percent and it ranks 17th in the state, according to the report.

Otherwise, the figures for both counties were virtually unchanged from October. Franklin County had 65,000 people working and 2,100 listed as unemployed, while Fulton County had 6,400 people working and 300 jobless, according to the report.

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