Valley’s jobless rate rises
By Jaime North
The Daily Item
March 31, 2009 07:20 am— Unemployment rose in the Valley for the fifth straight month in February and will probably get worse, a state official said Monday.
Northumberland County had the highest jobless rate at 10.9 percent, and Montour County posted the lowest at 9 percent. Snyder County’s rate was 10.4 percent, while Union County’s was 9.9, according to the state Department of Labor & Industry.
And the worst is yet to come, according to Scott Meckley, an analyst with state Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis.
“It’s a broad-based decline right now with every area in the state pretty much acting the same way,” Meckley said. “Based on what other economic groups have forecasted, we’re probably not at the peak yet. How far it’s going to continue, we’re not sure. Prognosticating is not what we do.”
Meckley said there has been indications the national unemployment rate is expecting to continue to rise. As a result, Pennsylvania will likely follow suit, he said.
“To say we peaked may be a little early,” Meckley said. “I’d like to think that would be the case, but doubt that is the true forecast.”
Valley unemployment rates for February were higher than state and national rates, which were at 7.5 percent and 8.1 percent respectively.
Local unemployment rates ranged from 4.6 percent to 5.7 percent in September, according to state data.
According to Meckley, the health care sector appears to be the lone survivor of the current economic recession among the larger job markets.
The Department of Labor & Industry reported jobs in education and health services grew by 2.4 percent in the north central region, which includes the Valley, slightly ahead of the statewide gain of 1.9 percent in that area.
“It’s simply because of the demand for jobs,” Meckley said. “Pennsylvania has an older population, so there is a need for health care jobs.”
Meckley said a growing number of displaced workers are heading back to school.
“The best thing is to start looking at changing careers, maybe furthering education or taking advantage of training offers,” Meckley said. “We know the health care sector is recruiting people who are working in other industries.
“More people are starting to think about changing careers, instead of looking for another factory job or finance job.”