Jobless rate falls slightly in metro area
Jan 04, 2013 (The Citizens' Voice - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The unemployment rate among residents of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area slipped one tenth of a percentage point in November to 9.4 percent, a modest shift before the holidays and the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, which defined the economy for weeks after.
At 9.4 percent, the region still led the state's 14 metro areas with the highest unemployment rate, according to figures released by the state Department of Labor & Industry. The lowest rate was enjoyed by State College at 5.7 percent. Statewide unemployment was 7.8 in November. U.S. unemployment was 7.7 percent.
"The numbers are not terrible, but they are not wonderful either," said Anthony Liuzzo, Ph.D., a professor of business at Wilkes University. "These are modest moves."
Among counties that comprise the metro area, Wyoming County joblessness was at 10.1 percent, Luzerne County was 9.3 percent, and Lackawanna County was 8.7 percent.
Some positive trends underlay the stubbornly high rate. On a seasonally adjusted basis, more than 1,000 new people found jobs in November. About 700 people entered a labor force, defined as those working or looking for work. A swelling labor force is a sign that people sidelined by the economy are optimistic about finding work. Those changes resulted in a 300-person drop in the ranks of the unemployed. Improvements are more dramatic year over year. About 4,700 more residents were working than a year ago.
The number of jobs in the region has grown as well, with non-farm jobs increasing by 5,100 since November 2011, according to non-seasonally adjusted figures. The fastest growing sectors manufacturing, with 1,100 new jobs for the year. Transportation, warehousing and utilities also added 1,100. Leisure and hospitality added 1,300 posts.
Steven Zellers, an analyst at the state Department of Labor and Industry, noted employment in non-government service-providing jobs is at an all-time high. The sector, which includes the majority of workers in the metro area, employed 194,600 people in November.
"You have been showing some progress," Zellers said. "Things are better than they have been in the recent past. There were no outstanding negatives."
Liuzzo is not optimistic about the next few months of jobless reports, which have yet to show the impact of superstorm Sandy, the Connecticut shooting and what he said will prove to be a disappointing holiday shopping season for retailers.
"I'm not saying we are going to double dip, but we are going to be on a bit of a rollercoaster for a while," he said.
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