HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Gettysburg’s unemployment rate as of March appeared poised to be the first in Pennsylvania to dip below 3% — it was a flat 3.0% in March, down from 3.2% in February.

The unemployment rates in all five other Midstate metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, were less than 4% and, in most cases, more than a point below the commonwealth’s 4.6% average for the month, according to an abc27 analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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March 2022 unemployment rates for all six Midstate metro areas, and the comparable rates for a month earlier (February 2022) and a year earlier (March 2021):

AreaMarch 2022Month ago (February 2022)Year ago (March 2021)
Pennsylvania statewide4.6%5.0%7.1%
Source: abc27 analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data

Elsewhere in the state, the areas with the highest March 2022 unemployment rates were East Stroudsburg (6.1%), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleon (5.7%), Erie (5.6%), and Johnstown (5.4%).

The area with the second-lowest unemployment rate, after Gettysburg, was State College (3.3%).

One industry buttressing unemployment rates in Central Pennsylvania is something some people might not think of as an “industry” at all, but a sector that provides a lot of jobs.

“You have a lot of people who work either for state government, or they work in industries connected to state government — nonprofits or lobbyists, in some cases, or consulting firms,” said Stephen Herzenberg, an economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center. Those people, in turn, support other jobs where they shop, where they eat, and so forth.

“State government is about the most stable sector in the economy, or one of the most stable sectors,” Herzenberg said. “So unlike the construction industry or the manufacturing sector, which bounce up and down a lot when the economy goes into recession — as, for example, it did in the pandemic — state government employment rates tend to move along pretty flatly.”

What happens next might be harder than ever to predict.

“You know, the economy we’ve been dealing with recently, and even really for the past two years, is unique,” Herzenberg said. “We never quite dealt with a pandemic which forced us to shut down part of the economy, to slow the spread of COVID-19. And we never really dealt with managing the reentry or expansion of the economy on the back end of a pandemic that for a while has refused to completely go away.”

One particularly tricky question to answer, according to Herzenberg: “Whether all of the sectors that were hit hard in the pandemic will come all the way back.”

Consider the work-from-home phenomenon, which persists even as many workers return to the office. Companies “may shrink and, in some cases, close the offices they had when people didn’t telecommute,” Herzenberg said, impacting the places where, for example, those workers bought lunch.

“And when it comes to business travel, people will still do retreats,” Herzenberg said, “they’ll still do conferences in person, but they might do them less often. And so I think you can probably expect the business travel sector to be smaller even a year from now than it was in 2019,” the last full year before the pandemic.