The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Business

November 11, 2013

No quick fix for area’s struggling jobs market

JOHNSTOWN — The performance of the local labor market so far this year has again prompted the question “why is our local economy so slow to recover?” Or to phrase it another way, “is recovery from the Great Recession bypassing our area?” Whatever way it is presented, there appears to be no easy or quick answer to when the recovery will translate into sustained improvement in overall economic conditions.

To some who have returned to their old job or have been successful in finding a new one, the recession that officially ended a little more than four years ago is a distant memory. Still, others who have not been so fortunate continue to lose confidence in the recovery.

Since the official start of the recovery from the Great Recession in July 2009, the economy has not progressed strongly and or evenly among local industries. So far, 2013 has been no exception, as the local economy has failed to generate much momentum, currently averaging 300 jobs below the 2012 average figure of 59,600. Looking back, there were 63,000 jobs in this area when the recession began in December 2007. That figure dropped to 58,900 by the official ending date.

The jobs deficit from this recession is much larger than those in previous recessions. The duration of the most recent recession, one year and six months, combined with a more substantial job loss this time around, collectively contributed to the lasting consequences. In addition, permanent losses in both state and federal government created a serious drag that was not weighing on earlier recoveries.

In each month throughout the post-recessionary period, the unemployment rate in the local labor market has not dropped below 8 percent. Within that same time frame, that figure has jumped into the 9 percent range in 19 of the 50 months, indicating that the local labor market still faces a long-term recovery effort as a result of the damage inflicted by the Great Recession.

So, here we are, more than

60 months after the recession began, continuing to deal with the aftermath of the recession. Some believe that recovery will continue to a slow process. Others are hopeful that the economy will improve soon as business leaders and economic development experts remain optimistic, while many simply hope for some type of change in their economic fortunes.

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.

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