ABC27 Exclusive: Midstate unemployment lower than PA and national averages

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Harrisburg, Pa. (WHTM) — Midstate unemployment in October — the most recent month for which this data is available — was significantly lower than elsewhere in Pennsylvania and the U.S., according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and analyzed by ABC27 News.

Midstate civilian unemployment rates ranged from 4.4 percent in the Gettysburg metropolitan area (as defined by the U.S. Census) to 5.8 percent in the Lebanon and Chambersburg-Waynesboro areas. The October average was 6.9 percent for both all of Pennsylvania and all of the U.S. (Like the metro-area figures, the Pennsylvania figure is not seasonally adjusted and is thus fully comparable; the U.S. figure is seasonally adjusted.)

A Midstate economist said the region’s relative outperformance has to do with the composition of its economy.

“We have an economy that depends a lot on jobs related to state government, in which people can mostly work from home,” Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, said. “It’s also true that we have a lot of distribution-sector jobs, which are considered essential workers.”

The Midstate’s dependence on state government employment means the region has more of a stake than others in the outcome of current U.S. Congressional negotiations, which could result in a new aid package for state and local governments, Herzenberg added.

Here are October civilian unemployment rates:

AreaOctober 2019October 2020
Harrisburg-Carlisle3.9%5.7%
Lancaster3.5%5.1%
York-Hanover4.9%5.7%
Lebanon4.0%5.8%
Gettysburg3.3%4.4%
Chambersburg-Waynesboro3.9%5.8%
Pennsylvania4.4%6.9%
U.S.3.6%6.9%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Areas elsewhere in the state, such as Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton (7.9 percent unemployment for October 2020), Erie (7.6 percent), Philadelphia (7.3 percent) and Williamsport (7.0 percent) drove the statewide average higher.

As the chart shows — and as was the case everywhere in Pennsylvania and nearly everywhere in America — unemployment remained higher in the Midstate than it was a year earlier. But (not depicted in the chart) also as in every Pennsylvania region and nearly everywhere in America, Midstate unemployment declined in October 2020 compared to September 2020.

This appeared to be driven partly, but not entirely, by a decline in the size of the workforce, likely as some people stopped looking for work and no longer counted in these statistics as unemployed. (The unemployment rate is calculated by the total number of people who aren’t working but are actively seeking work, divided by that same number plus the number of people who are working.)

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