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Franklin Co. ends '05 with lowest jobless rate in state

January 31, 2006|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County ended 2005 where it had been much of the year, with the lowest jobless rate among Pennsylvania's 67 counties, according to preliminary figures released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The non-seasonally adjusted rate for the county fell from 3.5 percent in November to 2.9 percent, according to the report. It was the eighth month in which Franklin County was ranked or tied for first and the county was never ranked lower than second during the year, according to department figures.

If that number holds, it will be the lowest jobless rate for the county in 2005, said Ryan Horner, an industry and business analyst with the department. A preliminary jobless rate of 2.9 percent in October was later revised upward to 3 percent, he said.

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Unemployment was down by 400 from November to 2,200, but the number of people working dropped by 500 to 72,700 and the labor force fell by 900 people to 74,900, the report stated. Horner said some of the decreases could be the result of statisticians rounding figures to the nearest hundred, or "discouraged workers," people who were listed as unemployed but who are no longer actively seeking jobs.

"Year-to-year, the numbers are positive," said Horner, noting that employment is still up by 500 from December 2004 and unemployment is 400 lower than a year ago.

In the survey of employers, companies reported a decrease of 300 from November's record number in non-farm jobs to 54,300, but the figure was still 700 higher than a year ago.

Although manufacturers reported employment unchanged from November's 9,600, Hugh Graham, a business services representative at the Franklin County CareerLink office said, "we're seeing a lot more postings from major employers such as Grove (Worldwide) and Ingersoll-Rand," as well as Letterkenny Army Depot.

Graham says he expects to see continued growth in areas such as health care, social services, retail sales, and warehousing and distribution.

"We expect to see a lot of recruiting in the next year for jobs," he said.

"With this low rate of unemployment, I see a trend where wages are going up incrementally," Graham said. Employers are having to compete for workers, he said.

The jobless rate in Fulton County increased from 4.2 percent in November to 4.4 percent in December, according to the preliminary figures, but that was substantially lower than the 6.3 percent unemployment rate in December 2004.

The number of unemployed people remained at 300, but the number with jobs fell by 100 to 7,400 in December, the report stated. The number of people in manufacturing jobs was unchanged at 1,900, although the county's largest employer, JLG Industries in McConnellsburg, Pa., announced earlier this month plans to expand operations in Fulton, Bedford and Cumberland counties and add several hundred jobs beginning early this year.

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