Franklin Co. jobless rate remains low

June 03, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Despite a substantial drop in unemployment in April, Franklin County lost its top ranking among the 50 labor market areas in the state, according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The seasonally-adjusted jobless rate for the Chambersburg Microstatistical Area, which includes all of Franklin County, went from 3.8 percent in March to 3.3 percent in April, according to department figures, placing it just behind the Lebanon Metropolitan Statistical Area for the lowest rate statewide. The county's labor market area had led the state for the past few months, according to previous monthly reports.

The nonseasonally adjusted rate fell more sharply, going from 4.2 percent to 3.1 percent, according to the report.

"The unemployment drop was quite a bit more than we would have predicted," said Walter Nichols, an industry and business analyst for the department. He said part of that gain in employment can be credited to an increase in construction and other seasonal employment.


Part of the volatility Nichols said was due to a new method of calculating statistics adopted by the department this year.

The nonseasonally adjusted April figures showed a decrease of 400 in the labor force to 75,300; an increase of 400 in the number of people employed to 72,900; and a decrease of 800 in the number of unemployed to 2,400.

Construction added 100 jobs to 2,700; wholesale jobs increased by 100 to 2,400; and professional and business services added 100 jobs for a total of 3,900, according to the report. Leisure and hospitality was the only category to show a drop in employment, down 200 to 4,000, the report stated.

In Fulton County, the nonseasonally adjusted jobless rate fell from 6.1 to 4.2 percent as the number of people working increased by 200 to 7,500 and the number of jobless fell by 200 to 300, according to the report. Most of the new nonfarm jobs were in manufacturing and goods producing jobs which, when the figures are rounded to the nearest 100, increased from 2,400 in March to 2,600 in April.

The figures for Franklin County showed that, as a percentage of the work force, manufacturing jobs have declined from 33.5 percent in April 1995 to 23.3 percent in April 2005. Statewide, goods-producing jobs fell from 20.9 percent to 16.7 percent during the same period.

"While (Franklin County) has lost goods-producing jobs at a faster rate than the state, it has also gained jobs at a faster rate than the state," making the shift seem more pronounced, according to the report.

"I sound like a broken record, but we're creating jobs faster than we're able to fill them," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. "We're seeing growth in every sector."

"In the manufacturing sector, you're seeing increased deployment of technology to deal with the labor situation," including robotics, Ross said.

One area manufacturer reported a record increase in sales for its most recent quarter.

Last week, JLG Industries in McConnellsburg, Pa., stated that sales for the third quarter ending May 1 were up 59 percent over the previous year to $505 million. Domestic sales were up 54 percent and international sales increased 75 percent, according to the quarterly report.

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