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Franklin County jobless rate slightly down

Pa. county is second in state for lowest unemployment

Pa. county is second in state for lowest unemployment

November 03, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. ? A moratorium on new sewer connections in the Chambersburg metropolitan area might have contributed to a dip in construction jobs in September.

But the rest of Franklin County's economy continued to hum along as schools reopened, retail employment grew and unemployment fell, according to preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The nonseasonally adjusted jobless rate for the county fell from 3.3 percent to 3 percent ? right where it was in September 2006, according to department statistics. The number of people working grew by 200 to 77,600, and the ranks of the unemployed fell by an equal number to 2,400.

The drop moved Franklin County up a notch to second among the state's 67 counties for lowest unemployment. Adams County has the lowest rate at 2.9 percent, according to the report.

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"It's empirical proof of what we have intuitively known," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. "We're creating more jobs here than we have people to fill them."

"We're fortunate to be in the position we're in," Ross said. Some smaller counties might have experienced higher rates of job growth in recent years, "but our economy is far more balanced," he said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection moratorium on new sewer connections in Chambersburg and Greene, Guilford and Hamilton townships was imposed Aug. 16 and lifted last week. During that time, no building permits for new houses were issued in the borough or Greene Township, and just a few were issued in the other townships.

An engineer working for several developers of projects in Greene Township said last week the moratorium had brought those projects to a halt while it was in effect. Despite putting the brakes on construction in one of the fastest growing areas of the county, construction employment fell by just 100 to about 3,000, the report stated.

Retail trade was up by 100 jobs to 7,100. Some of that increase is attributable to the opening of a new Giant supermarket in Chambersburg in late August, said Ryan Horner, an industry and business analyst.

That retail increase is contrary to what normally happens in September, Horner said. Retail employment often slips as high school and college students step out from behind sales counters and return to classes.

Giant created 225 full- and part-time jobs at its new 68,000-square-foot Norland Avenue store, its second in Chambersburg, according to a company press release issued when the store opened. The Giant on Wayne Avenue opened in 1990 and recently was expanded.

Local government jobs showed the biggest jump, with employment rising by 1,000 to 5,100, most of those resulting from schools reopening in late August, Horner said. Educational and health services jobs, a category Horner said includes private schools, nurses and other jobs associated with health care, rose by 100 to 8,900.

Leisure and hospitality jobs, largely in hotels and restaurants, fell by 300 to 4,900, an expected seasonal decline as people travel less than during the summer and students left summer jobs, Horner said.

While much of the rest of the nation and the state have been losing manufacturing jobs, Franklin County had 11,100 people working in factories and plants in September, an increase of 100 over September 2006, according to the report.

Transportation, warehousing and utilities, a category that includes the county's distribution centers and the new CSX intermodal facility, added 200 jobs in September for a total of 4,200, the report stated.

Nonfarm employment rose 1,100 for the month to a record 59,100, according to the report. For the year, nonfarm jobs were up 1,600 from September 2006, an increase of 2.8 percent.

Of 13 categories listed in the business survey portion of the report only three ? construction, financial activities and wholesale trade ? showed fewer people working than one year ago, and in each category, the figures were down by 100, a data change the department states can be due to rounding off numbers.

The jobless rate in Fulton County was down from 4.6 percent in August to 4.5 percent in September, the report stated. Employment was down by 100 to 7,800, and the number of jobless was steady at 400.

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