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Area unemployment down

Drop to 6.5% linked to school start

Unemployment in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region dropped to 6.5 percent in September, a result of gaining 3,100 jobs in education with the beginning of another school year.

But drops in other job categories dampened the overall growth of non-farm jobs to 900 from the previous month, according to data released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The decrease of two-tenths of a percentage point from August, however, was not enough to raise the ranking of the region made up of Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming counties among the state’s 14 labor markets. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre sank to the bottom and for the first time since March 2007 traded places with Johnstown, which posted an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent.

The region also trailed the state’s rate of 5.7 percent and the national rate of 6.1 percent during the month.

The region’s unemployment rate has been over 6 percent since July. It has risen by 1.5 percentage points from September 2007 when it was 5 percent. With that increase Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tied Allentown for the largest year-over-year jump.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s seasonally adjusted resident labor force, a measure of people who live in the three-county region but might work elsewhere, decreased by 1,100 to 283,100 from August to September. Employment dropped to 264,800 from 265,200. Unemployment also decreased by 600 to 18,400 in September.

Explaining the drop in unemployment, Joseph Merlina, an industry and business analyst with the department said, “I suspect that school started up.”

Students returned to school, he said, adding that they were not only out of the labor force, but also out of employment.

But teachers, bus drivers and others who returned to work with the new school year boosted the number of non-farm jobs located in the region.

The actual tally was 3,100 jobs; 800 in educational services and 2,300 in local government and educational services.

Historically, education jobs increase in September and October and decrease in May and June, Merlina said, and that shows up in the total non-farm job numbers.

From August to September of this year there was an increase of 900 jobs. In 2007 the month-to-month increase was 3,300 jobs, Merlina said. The previous four years also showed increases: 3,600 in 2006, 2,400 in 2005, 1,200 in 2004 and 2,600 in 2003.

Although the month-to- month increase trend continued, the year-to-year comparison showed a drop.

“We’ve increased the number of jobs in the market by 900 over the month, but are down 400 over the year,” Merlina said.

The goods-producing sector stood at 44,500 jobs, down 300 from August and 700 fewer than September 2007.

The service-providing sector grew to 218,200, up 1,200 over the month and 300 over the year earlier.

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