Franklin Co. jobless rate increases slightly in July

September 06, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Local government employment was down considerably, but it barely made a dent in Franklin County's unemployment rate, which increased from 3.6 percent in June to 3.7 percent in July, according to preliminary figures released last week by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The number of local government jobs dropped by 1,000 to 3,900 in July, mostly because public schools were closed for the summer, but many of those workers are not eligible for unemployment, said Chambersburg Area School District Business Manager Rick Vensel.

Many of those who work for school districts and are off for the summer receive what are called "letters of reasonable assurance," which indicate they will be returning to work when school resumes, Vensel said. While not considered unemployed, they are also not on the payroll during the summer, he said.


About 30 percent of the district's more than 500 teachers also choose a lump sum check at the end of the school year to cover the summer months, while the rest choose to continue receiving regular paychecks, Vensel said.

Chambersburg is one of six school districts in the county.

The nonseasonally adjusted employment figures from the state showed an increase of 400 in the number of people working to 73,600, while the number of unemployed was unchanged at 2,800. The total labor force, however, was also up by 400 to 76,400, reflecting increased numbers of students entering the work force.

The number of nonfarm payroll jobs fell by 800 to 52,800 in July, according to department figures. Most industry categories were flat or decreased.

Gains did show up in two seasonal industries - construction, and leisure and hospitality.

With the building of new homes and businesses booming in the county, construction companies added another 100 workers in July for a total of 3,000. That figure was 200 more than in July 2004, according to department figures.

"Everyone I talk to in construction is having trouble finding trained help, or help at all," said Larry Eberly of Greencastle, Pa., a contractor and president of the Franklin County Builders Association. He said there are "a lot" of contractors willing to train new workers.

The building boom puts a strain on the pool of skilled construction workers, he said. Not enough young people are learning construction trades. Eberly said construction is not glamorous work and many people look at other professions as "a lot better than being out here in the hot sun."

Restaurants, hotels and entertainment-based businesses picked up the employment pace in July, adding 200 jobs for a total of 4,500, the report stated.

Franklin County did slip from the No. 1 ranking for the lowest unemployment rate among Pennsylvania's 67 counties that it held in recent months. Chester and neighboring Adams counties both had jobless rates of 3.6 percent, according to the department.

Fulton County's unemployment rate fell from 4.2 percent in June to 4.1 percent in July, although the number of people working was unchanged at 7,700 and the number listed as unemployed remained at 300.

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