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Jobless numbers remain steady in Franklin Co.

February 02, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The unemployment rate for Franklin County remained at 3.1 percent for the third month in a row and was at the same level as in December 2003, according to preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

In Fulton County, however, a shift of 100 people from the employed to the unemployed column sent the jobless rate there from 4.5 percent to 6.4 percent, according to department figures.

"We obviously have a good economic engine running in Franklin County ... It's hard to get much lower than 3.1 percent," said Franklin County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott.

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"It's a testament to the work ethic of the people in this region," said Commissioner Cheryl Plummer. She said any jobless rate under 5 percent is generally regarded as full employment.

Nevertheless, Elliott said, "my personal forecast is, it's only going to get better."

"All the feedback, both official and unofficial, I get from folks at Letterkenny (Army Depot) and Washington, D.C., are cautiously very optimistic" about the future of the depot, the county's second-largest employer, Elliott said.

This year the Department of Defense and the Base Realignment and Closure Commission will once again recommend to Congress a list of bases and installations to be downsized or closed.

The construction of a Wal-Mart and Lowe's Home Improvement Center in Rouzerville, Pa., also should spur employment growth, Elliott said.

Franklin County CareerLink Site Administrator Wes Cool said there is both good news and bad news at the job center.

"Actually, it's fairly busy. We have a lot of people looking for better jobs," he said. Manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand in Shippensburg, Pa., also is hiring welders, he said.

The flip side is that 230 people are losing their jobs with the closure of the Hoffman Mills textile plant in Shippensburg this month and approximately 140 people are being laid off at Phoenix Color in Hagerstown, Cool said. Although both businesses are outside of Franklin County, a number of their employees live here, he said.

Because Hoffman Mills was adversely affected by foreign competition, Cool said employees qualify for the Trade Adjustment Allowance program, a federal program administered through the states, he said. Those workers will have access to job training, relocation and other services through the program, Cool said.

Due to its proximity to Franklin County, Cool said his office is handling assistance programs for the Hoffman Mills workers, rather than Cumberland County.

The number of people listed as unemployed in Franklin County remained at 2,100 in December, but the number of people with jobs fell by 800 to 64,200, the Department of Labor and Industry reported. The total labor force, those working and seeking employment, decreased by 900 to 66,200.

The highest monthly jobless rates for Franklin County in 2004 were January and February at 4.1 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively, the report states. The lowest was 3 percent in September, according to the non-seasonally adjusted figures.

In Fulton County, the number of people working dropped by 100 to 6,300, while the number of jobless increased by 100 to 400, department figures state.

Franklin County's ranked third-lowest of the state's 67 counties, according to the department. Cumberland County was the lowest at 2.6 percent.

For the year, manufacturing jobs were down 100 from December 2003. The report stated that 19.1 percent of workers in Franklin and Fulton counties are employed in manufacturing, compared to 12.2 statewide and 10.9 percent nationally.

Gearing up to Christmas, retailers hired 100 more people for a total of 7,000. Hotels and restaurants also added 100 employees for a total of 4,500, the report states.

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