Tri-county unemployment rate lowest since July 2009

First Posted: 2/4/2014

The tri-county area including Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming ended 2013 just like it began, with the highest unemployment rate of the state’s 14 metropolitan statistical areas. December also marked the 45th month in a row the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton region held that distinction.

But the news wasn’t as dismal as it sounds. The rate dropped four-tenths of a percentage point from November to December to fall to 8.7 percent, the lowest it’s been since July 2009 when the rate was 8.6 percent.

Luzerne County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped eight-tenths of a percentage point to 8.4 percent. Lackawanna County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment was down eight-tenths of a percentage point to 7.8 percent. The rate in Wyoming County saw the steepest decline plummeting 1.4 percentage points to 7.9 percent.

State and national rates fell by similar margins to the metro region as a whole. Pennsylvania’s average unemployment fell four-tenths to 6.9 percent in December while the U.S. unemployment rate fell three-tenths to was 6.7 percent.

A closer look at the report released Tuesday by the state Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information & Analysis shows that the metro area was down 2,100 jobs from a year prior. The big gainer was the leisure and hospitality sector, which reported a 1,000-job increase. Sectors that saw the largest decreases in jobs were the service providing industry, down 2,000; health care and social assistance, down 1,800; educational services, down 800; and both the manufacturing and retail trade sectors, each of which shed 500 jobs over the year.

The transportation, warehousing and utilities sector set a new record high for jobs at 19,300. And nearly missing a new record was the supersector of trade, transportation and utilities, which was at 63,900 for the month, just 100 shy of the record set in December 2012.

December is traditionally an active month thanks to seasonal hiring related to the retail industry. But this December, there were actually 500 fewer retail jobs compared to a year ago.

Steven Zellers, an analyst with the Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, said the report is a mixed bag. While the overall rate dropped, so too did the number of local residents employed and the number of local residents in the labor force. From December 2012 to December 2013, there were 4,800 fewer people employed in the MSA and 8,500 fewer people in the labor force. There were also 2,100 fewer jobs within the MSA.

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