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The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point in December, settling at 9.5 percent.


But that uptick is the only bad news found in the report released Monday by the state Department of Labor and Industry's Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, Steven Zellers, an analyst with the department, said.


The labor force swelled quite a bit, Zellers noted, which led to the unemployment rate increase.


Overall, the report showed signs of improvement in many job sectors and an increase in the number of people both looking for work and finding it.


December showed record levels of employment in several sectors and supersectors, including health care and social assistance, trade, transportation and utilities, and local government educational services.


There were gains in other industries, too:


• Goods-producing industries gained 1,300 jobs from December 2011. Both supersectors, mining and logging and construction, as well as manufacturing, have posted year-over-year increases since March 2012.


• Trade, transportation and utilities, at 63,700 jobs, set a new record high level. The holiday season ramp-up in retail trade helped push the supersector to the new high.


• Health care and social assistance, while up only modestly both over the month and over the year, set a new record high level of 43,500 jobs.


• Local government educational services, at a record high level of 13,100 jobs, was up 500 jobs over the year. Record-keeping for this series began in 1990.


But the region still reported the highest unemployment rate of the state's 14 major metros. By comparison, State College was the lowest at 5.7 percent.


Pennsylvania's rate increased one-tenth of a point over the month to 7.9 percent, while the national rate was unchanged at 7.8 percent. Over the past year, the rate increased four-tenths of a point locally, Pennsylvania's rate rose two-tenths, and the national rate has fallen seven-tenths of a point.


The local metro area gained 4,000 jobs over the year, but with 10,000 more people joining the labor pool since December 2011, it drove the unemployment rate higher.


Labor pool growing

At the county levels, all three counties included in the metro area – Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming – saw increases in unemployment rates both month-to-month and year-to-year, but Zellers said it's because more people are entering the labor pool.


The seasonally adjusted labor force grew in all three counties and more people were working in all three counties compared with December 2011.


In Luzerne County alone, there were 4,000 more people working than a year earlier.


Generally, (those unemployed that rejoined the job search) see things improving in their own circle, Zellers said. Unfortunately, not all of them got re-employed, but more than half of them did.


According to the department's data, 10,000 more people in the metro region were in the civilian labor force in December 2012 than December 2011. And 6,900 more people were working year-to-year.


Anthony Liuzzo, director of the master of business administration program at Wilkes University, said looking past the unemployment rate is necessary to truly appreciate the strides the region has made.


It's a bad thing happening for a good reason, Liuzzo said about the rate rising. It shows that the economy is improving.


The feeling that things are getting better is enticing people to look for jobs, and while some are finding them, the labor force cannot absorb everyone seeking a job. Therefore, we're seeing that rate go up, Liuzzo said.


CITY RATES

The three major cities in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro statistical area saw unemployment rates of their residents climb from November to December.


Wilkes-Barre climbed seven-tenths of a point to 10.8 and had 2,200 residents unemployed. Scranton saw its rate climb two-tenths of a percent to 8.8 percent. It had 3,300 residents unemployed. Hazleton saw its rate climb four-tenths of a percent to 13.7 and reported 1,700 residents out of work.



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