Area jobless rate lowest since October ‘08, but still highest in state

June 9th, 2015 11:32 pm

First Posted: 7/29/2014

It’s been more than five years since the unemployment rate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area was below 7 percent, but June’s figure dipped to just below that mark, to 6.9 percent. That was the lowest local jobless rate since October 2008, when it was 6.7 percent, according to a report by the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Even though June marked a 12th consecutive monthly decline, the region continued to report the highest jobless rate among 14 large markets in Pennsylvania, ahead of second-place Johnstown at 6.6 percent.

The improvement was not the result of more people with jobs. The number of people working or looking for work in the region composed of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties continued to fall, by 1,400 from May and by 7,700 since June 2013.

The labor force size of 275,700 was 4 percent less than the 286,200 the last time the unemployment rate was this low. But in October 2008, almost the same number, 19,000, were unemployed

The unemployment rate is calculated for people who live in the market, but who could work anywhere.

The number of nonfarm jobs within the region rose by 900 from May but was 1,400 less than a year ago, making the region one of two statewide to show job losses. The 253,900 local jobs total was 6,400 less than in October 2008.

In the service-providing sector, which accounts for 85 percent of jobs in the region, the strongest growth over the year was in the category of transportation, warehousing and utilities, which showed a gain of 1,200 positions.

Doug Barbacci, president of Calex Integrated Supply Chain Solutions in Pittston, said the growth could be even stronger if Calex and similar companies could find enough qualified employees.

“We’ve been adding, but our additions don’t meet demand,” Barbacci said. “While our employment is up, it could be up significantly more if labor was available.”

Professional and business services was the biggest loser, down 2,100 positions, followed by retail trade, which dropped 1,700.

Jobs in the goods-producing sector rose by 900 since June 2013, with all of the gain coming in mining, logging and construction.