Unemployment Drops For Another Month
Local unemployment sank slightly again in April, in step with state and national trends, as 300 workers exited the labor force.
The key measure for testing economic health, dropped one-tenth of a point to 4.7%, seasonally, adjusted in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton metropolitan statistical area, according to preliminary numbers the state Department of Labor and Industry published Tuesday.
The number of employed people is up 1,000 compared to last April and flat from March at 264,100.
Over the year, the labor force is up 200 workers.
The April changes appear neither good or bad, said University of Scranton economist Satyajit Ghosh, Ph.D.. He stressed that month-to-month fluctuations are noteworthy only if they start to reveal a trend, and April’s don’t do that.
Statewide, unemployment’s down one-tenth of a point to 3.8%; the national rate fell two-tenths of a point to 3.6%.
Over the year, two northeast counties, Pike and Wayne, have seen the biggest unemployment drop.
Both saw unemployment shrink by one whole percentage point between April 2018 and last month. The average decline among five other northeast counties, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Susquehanna and Wyoming, was just under six-tenths of a point.
The jobs numbers show a slice of economic health, not all of it, said Lucyann Vierling, executive director of the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance.
More workers might have found jobs in Wayne County, but they don’t pay enough and whole households are pulling to make ends meet.
Unemployment payments may drop because people have part-time or low-paying jobs, but workers lean on other social safety nets.
“You’ll see a decrease in cash assistance, but a spike in food stamps,” Vierling said. “I’m not trying to be critical, but it’s a matter of looking at the whole picture.”
Despite steady decline, the local metro, which includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming counties, remains tied for highest unemployment with the East Stroudsburg metro, which includes all of Monroe County. State College and Gettysburg are tied for lowest — 2.9%.
“Typically, we are around the third highest as far as the unemployment rate goes,” Ghosh said. He’s been studying the indicator in this region since the early 1990s.
“I would love to see, relative to the other MSAs, we are also picking up our pace and we are doing better than we have been — this is not what we are seeing.”