Midstate unemployment ticks up; remains below Pa. average but now above U.S.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Unemployment rates in four of the six areas that make up the Midstate rose fractionally in February, the latest month for which figures are available. Rates in the two other areas remained flat.

The changes in the past several months leave rates in most Midstate areas higher than the national average — a reversal from earlier in the pandemic — although the Midstate is still better off than Pennsylvania overall.

Here are February 2021 civilian unemployment rates compared to a month earlier and a year earlier:

AreaFeb. 2021Jan. 2021 (last month)Feb. 2020 (last year)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

(The national rate, unlike the state and local rates, is seasonally adjusted.)

The unemployment rate counts only people who are not working and are actively seeking jobs.

“The unemployment rate is a poor measure of joblessness, because lots of people who lose jobs don’t count as unemployed,” said Stephen Herzenberg, an economist and executive director of the Harrisburg-based Keystone Research Center. Herzenberg said more like 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s would-be workforce, or more like 8 percent of the Midstate’s would-be workforce, is out of work, including people who aren’t officially counted in the figures above.

The Midstate’s economic mix, including numerous warehouses as Americans have shifted more of their shopping online during the pandemic, has helped keep its unemployment rate lower than other areas of the state.

With all Midstate areas remaining at least a point below the statewide average, what areas are driving the average up? Erie’s rate of 9.9 percent for February was highest in the state, followed by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazleton area at 9.7 percent.

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