Still size of labor force and number of people working shrink

Last updated: July 03. 2014 11:08PM - 1241 Views
By Ron Bartizek Times Leader Correspondent

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WILKES-BARRE – Following a recent pattern, the unemployment rate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market fell in May, but so did the number of people with jobs.

The 7.2 percent rate was down one-tenth of 1 percent from April and 1.9 percentage points from the May 2013 rate of 9.1 percent, the state Department of Labor and Industry said. But the region that includes Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties maintained the unenviable distinction of having the highest jobless rate in Pennsylvania.

Both the size of the labor force – people working or looking for work – and the number of people with jobs fell compared to April and over the year. So, while 6,100 fewer people were reported as unemployed than last May, some of them may have given up looking for work.

“People getting so depressed that they drop out of the labor market is not good,” said Anthony Liuzzo, economics professor and director of the Wilkes University Arizona business program.

“What counts is that people are working and being productive,” Liuzzo said.

He noted that helps other parts of the economy as people have money to spend in restaurants, stores and other local businesses. Called “the multiplier effect,” this encourages those businesses to add to their staffs.

The unemployment rate is calculated for people who live in the three counties, but who may work anywhere.

The number of jobs within the counties fell by 200 from April and by 3,000 since May 2013. Only three other large labor markets in the state showed annual declines, none by more than 600 jobs.

Broken down by job category, mining, logging and construction and leisure and hospitality showed gains from April, which is expected with warmer weather. The former category also showed a healthy rise from May 2013, but leisure and hospitality jobs were stagnant.

Professional and business services work continued to slide, down 400 from April and 2,600 over the year. Government employment fell, as it has for months, led by a decline of 500 jobs in local government.

“There are pluses and minuses to the Northeastern Pennsylvania economy,” Liuzzo said.

People tend to be hardworking and loyal, he said, but “unfortunately they’re not as educated and lack skills” needed by many employers.

For the better educated, “even if the job itself is not stable, the career is stable,” he said.

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