For The Tribune-Democrat
A report Tuesday released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry showed a very modest decline in unemployment for July that was accompanied by a small gain in the seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the Johnstown Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.7 percent. This marked the fifth consecutive month of decline for the MSA, with the rate now two-tenths lower than the previous year. Statewide the rate was unchanged at 7.5 percent, while nationally the rate decreased to 7.4 percent.
Cambria County’s unemployment rate was 53rd lowest in the state in July; among the 14 MSAs it ranked 13th. Across the six-county region, the local area posted the second-lowest rate behind Blair County (6.8 percent), Bedford and Fulton counties (9.1 percent) and Huntingdon County (9.5 percent).
Seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs in the Johnstown MSA rose by 200 in July to 59,600. Although jobs have increased only four times in the past twelve months, the MSA was up 400 jobs over the year.
Industry level data, which is not seasonally adjusted, was heavily influenced by movements in seasonal industries.
Local government jobs declined by 600 in July, driven by the drop that comes with the end of the school year. Leisure and hospitality showed a record decrease of 500 jobs, as cafeteria and other similar school support staff were released for summer break.
Is the local economy poised for a stronger second half?
Based on the performance of the local economy so far this year, there is little reason to believe that the economy is gaining back the ground that it lost during the recession.
At present, the underlying strength in this job market is coming from a comparatively few service producing industries. The average number of jobs (January through July) is only 200 ahead of last year, while the unemployment rate lingers in the 8 to 9 percent range, clearly above the norm for this area. Once again the current trend affirms that the recovery process is grindingly slow.
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. He is a graduate of Pitt with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.