Franklin County jobless rate is eighth-lowest in Pennsylvania

April 25, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The unemployment rate in Franklin County, Pa., fell four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.4 percent in March, ranking the county eighth among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties for the lowest rate, according to the latest data from the state department of labor and industry.

Franklin County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.4 percent tied with two other counties, Cumberland and Lancaster, for the eighth-lowest rate. Neighboring Fulton County, with its rate of 9.6 percent, ranked 64th in March.

Franklin County’s unemployment rate has dropped 2.1 percentage points since March 2010. Labor department analysis stated it was the county’s largest over-the-year drop since 1995.

“It is great news that more people are working and the economy is starting to rebound,” County Commissioner Robert Thomas said.

Thomas said regional manufacturers like JLG, Manitowoc and Volvo Construction Equipment are directly affected by the global economy.

“They ship across the country and the world,” Thomas said.

Franklin County’s quality work force attracts and retains employers, he said.

Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross agreed and said he hears comments to that effect from manufacturers and other employers.

“They’re very pleased with the quality of our work force and the ethics of our work force,” he said.

The unemployment rate in Franklin was markedly lower than those in surrounding Tri-State area counties for March:

  • Washington County: 9.9 percent

  • Berkeley County, W.Va.: 10.1 percent

  • Jefferson County, W.Va.: 7.1 percent

  • Morgan County, W.Va.: 10.4 percent

Franklin County for years was a state leader for low unemployment, then slipped closer to the middle of the pack when the economy soured.

“I think (Franklin County) is tracking with what we’re seeing in the recovery. We’re starting to see a fairly significant recovery in the manufacturing sector,” Ross said.

PA CareerLink Franklin County Administrator Derrick Donnell said the improving unemployment rate hasn’t changed the number of people utilizing resources at the career center.

“Even though the unemployment rate is dropping, we’re still seeing a significant number of people looking for work. ... A lot of people are having a hard time finding sustained employment,” Donnell said.

Although the number of white-collar workers without jobs seems to have increased, today’s job seekers are most often skilled laborers like welders or heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technicians, Donnell said.

However, Ross said manufacturers tell him they are encountering a shortage of welders and machinists.

CareerLink’s Franklin County office had 257 to 403 people walk through its doors each week in the first three months of the year, according to Donnell.

Labor department data shows only about 100 additional people found work between February and March, but the civilian labor force shrank from 80,200 people to 79,900 people. The “trade, transportation and utilities” category gained 200 jobs.

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted rate was 7.8 percent, while the national rate was 8.8 percent.

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