Following a comparatively slow start through the first quarter, the job level locally rebounded in April, rising by 900 to 58,500. However, in a somewhat unexpected move, this positive job change stalled in May, holding the current (unadjusted) job total at the previous month’s level.
There are currently 200 fewer jobs than a year ago, pointing to a local economy that remains far from normal.
Despite no reported movement in the total jobs locally, an industry-by-industry analysis shows offsetting changes within the goods and service producing industries in May.
A gain of 100 jobs in construction was offset by a loss in manufacturing.
Negative changes that occurred over the month and year within the industrial sector point to a continually stagnant employment trend within an industry group that is of major importance to our local economy.
Seasonally inspired changes were reported among service producing industries representing a trend not uncommon for this time of year. Education and health services along with state government each shed 100 jobs, while retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and the conglomerate of other services added staff in May.
There are many ways to evaluate the performance of the local economy. One of the best measures is the direction of the changing job levels. It is also important to put into perspective the ongoing anemic nature of the recovery from the recession, as well as the comparative jobs gap that remains dismayingly large.
The modest up and down job pattern recently points not only to seasonality, but also the lack of a consistent employment pattern among key industries in our local economy.
In May, the unadjusted unemployment rate for the Johnstown Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) advanced to 6.4 percent, up from the previous month ago level of 5.9 percent.
This movement was accompanied by both a decline in residents employed as well as the number of labor force participants.
Again this month, the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre MSA was home to the highest rate in the state, followed by the Johnstown MSA.
The seasonally adjusted rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.8 percent. Through the year, the rate fell 2.0 percentage points.
Seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of neighboring counties were Blair (5.5 percent), Bedford (7.1 percent), Indiana (5.6 percent) and Somerset (7 percent).
For 40 years, Bill Findley was employed by the state Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis as a workforce information specialist, monitoring and reporting on labor market developments in this area and across the region.