2008-12-11 / Front Page

County Posts Highest Jobless Rate In State

Now ranks 67th out of 67 counties

Fulton County's unemployment rate climbed 1.7 percentage points in October, going from 8.5 percent in September to 10.2 percent in October, according to preliminary figures released by the Department of Labor and Industry last week. As a result of the 10.2 percentage rate, Fulton County now has the highest unemployment rate in the state. The seasonally adjusted data for Fulton County showed unemployment at 800, with a total labor force of 8,100 for the county in October. By comparison, the October 2007, unemployment rate for Fulton was only 5.9 percent.

Last month, Fulton County ranked in the number 65 position in the state, but in August Fulton County also had the highest employment rate in the state at 9.2 percent, according to final figures for that month.

Although it seldom happens, August and October of this year are not the first times that Fulton has ranked 67th in unemployment. According to Justin Fleming, spokesperson for the state Department of Labor & Industry's Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, in August of 1982, Fulton County's unemployment rate was at 25.7 percent, the highest in the state. Fleming also said that the last time Fulton County's rate was higher than 10.2 percent was in August 1997, when it was 19.7 percent.

Preliminary data often differs from the final rate because, according to an L&I spokesperson, "there can be an upward or downward revision for the final rate because as more data is collected, rates are subject to change. Border counties can be particularly affected since there may be a delay in getting claims data from surrounding states." Generally, when there is a revision, it is an upward revision.

The recent increases in unemployment statistics for the county reflect recent layoffs at JLG, and it is likely that future layoffs in county industries will impact unemployment further during the winter months. Fulton County's current unemployment rates are markedly higher than both the state and national rates.

According to Fleming, the state's Rapid Response coordinator for Fulton County reports there have been 400 layoffs since August 2008, at the JLG facility in McConnellsburg. Last month, Kirsten Skyba, JLG's vice president of global marketing told the "News" that 1,400, or 31 percent, of JLG workers worldwide have been laid off. The company's most recently announced an additional layoff of 500 employees to be staggered from mid-November through the end of January.

JLG is the county's largest employer followed by Fulton County Medical Center and H.B. Mellott Estate Inc.

Jason Hawkins, president and CEO of Fulton County Medical Center said there have been no layoffs at FCMC and none anticipated. "However," he said, "we continue to evaluate vacancies and look for ways to realize savings... that has always been the case."

Jeffrey S. Rowland, human resources manager for H.B. Mellott Estate Inc., told the "News," "We laid off five individuals in August unrelated to today's economic conditions. However, we continue to evaluate the business climate as we move forward in these challenging economic times. We anticipate positive improvement within the construction materials industry as the economic stimulus package is targeted toward our national infrastructure. It is at times like these that we must maintain focus on the Mellott Company Corporate Vision: "sustain an organization that provides opportunity and contributes to the growth and profitability of our owners, employees and customers."

In addition to JLG, Citicorp in Hagerstown has also announced massive layoffs that would also have an impact on Fulton County employment rates.

Rankings for Fulton's neighboring counties include Franklin at number six with an unemployment rate of 4.8, up from a rate of 4.7 percent in September and a ranking of number seven. Franklin is tied for the sixth spot with Cumberland and Montgomery counties. Bedford's ranking went from number 59 in September with an unemployment rate of 6.9 percent to number 65 in October with an 8.4 rate. Huntingdon County's unemployment ranking dropped from 57 in September and a rate of 6.8 percent to 54 in October, but with a slightly higher monthly jobless rate of 7.2 percent. It is tied with Clearfield, Carbon and Fayette counties.

In October, Chester County again posted the lowest unemployment rates in the state with a rate of 4.4 percent, but up from 4.3 in September. Adams and Centre counties tied for the number two spot in October with a 4.5 percent rate.

Pennsylvania's seasonally adjusted civilian labor force - the number of people working or looking for work - rose to 6,446,000 in October. Resident employment fell by 2,000 for the month, while unemployment was up 4,000. The labor force was up 157,000 since October 2007, with employment and unemployment up over the year.

Pennsylvania's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 5.8 percent in October, up onetenth of a percentage point from September. The United States' rate increased four-tenths of a percentage point over the month to 6.5 percent. The state rate has been below the national rate for six consecutive months, and it has been at or below the national rate for 68 out of the past 70 months.

Over the year, Pennsylvania's rate was up 1.4 percentage points, while the U.S. rate was up 1.7 percentage points.

Pennsylvania's seasonally adjusted non-farm job count fell by 7,300 in October to 5,784,000. Job losses for the month were concentrated in two sectors - manufacturing was down 4,000; and trade, transportation and utilities dropped 10,500.

sSince October 2007, Pennsylvania's job count was down 16,000. Since January 2003, the state has added 158,300 jobs.

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