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Franklin Co. jobless rate not state's lowest

January 04, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - After 18 straight months with the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania, Franklin County has been knocked from the top spot, but one economic development official says being number three might not be so bad.

"By not being the lowest, it actually gives us a bit of an edge right now when talking with businesses wanting to locate or expand here," Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross said Wednesday. The ranking gives the county a "perceptual advantage" with companies concerned about a labor shortage, he said.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for the county was 3.5 percent in November, according to preliminary figures released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The seasonally-adjusted rate had been 3.1 percent in October.

The new figures place Franklin County behind neighboring Cumberland County and Chester County, tied for first with jobless rates of 3.3 percent. Franklin County's nonseasonally-adjusted rate increased from 2.8 percent in October to 3.3 percent.

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For more than three years, Franklin County had been ranked first, tied for first or no lower than second in unemployment among Pennsylvania's 67 counties, according to Department figures.

In reality, Ross said a number of Southeastern and Southcentral Pennsylvania counties have been in "almost a statistical dead heat month-in and month-out" for the state's lowest unemployment.

"Those 15 counties drive Pennsylvania's economy, with the exception of Philadelphia," Ross said. The latest figures, he said, "are just the latest sign of the continuing strength of the Franklin County economy and the regional economy."

Heading into the holiday season, retail employment rose by 200 to 7,000 and educational and health services added 100 jobs to reach 8,000, a new record, according to the department.

Manufacturing fell by 100 jobs to 10,600, but was still up 1.9 percent from November 2005. Statewide, manufacturing fell by 1.9 percent for the year.

Neighboring Fulton County saw its nonseasonally-adjusted unemployment rate go from 3.5 percent in October to 4 percent in November. The number of people working held steady at 8,100 as the did number of unemployed at 300, but the total labor force rose by 100 to 8,500.

The manufacturing sector reported a decline of 100 jobs to 2,600, according to the report.

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