Unemployment rates fluctuate across the region in December

Unemployment rates across the region fell or rose slightly from November through December, according to data released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. Yet even with slight upward ticks in interest rates, levels continue their downward trend year after year.

Greater Philadelphia

Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties are part of the Philadelphia Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA, which includes the city and surrounding Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware counties.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate for Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, MSA, was unchanged at 3.8% in December from November, Labor & Industry said on Tuesday.

Broken down to the county level, Chester County’s December rate was 2.9%, up two-tenths of a percentage point from November and down four-tenths of a percentage point from December 2021, when the rate was 3.3%.

Montgomery County’s rate for December was 3.1%, up one-tenth of a percentage point from November and down seven-tenths of a percentage point from December 2021, when the rate was 3.8%.

Delaware County’s rate was 3.8% in December, flat from November and down one percentage point from December 2021.

Philadelphia County’s unemployment rate for December was 5.2%, down one-tenth of a percentage point from November and 1.7 percentage points lower from December 2021, when the rate was 6.9%.

The seasonally adjusted total nonfarm payrolls in the Greater Philadelphia region rose 500 during the month to 3,006,500 in December. During the year, the number of jobs in the MSA increased by 2.9% to 84,900.

Berks County

Berks, which is included in the Reading MSA, reported a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4% for December, down a tenth of a percentage point from November. That’s the lowest rate for the MSA since June 2000, when the unemployment rate was also 4%. The Berks rate is down 1.8 percentage points from December 2021, when the unemployment rate was 5.8%.

The seasonally adjusted total non-farm payrolls in the MSA Reading rose 0.4% over the month, or 700, to 175,100 in November.

Pennsylvania/US numbers

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate fell a tenth of a percentage point to 3.9% in December, hitting a new record low. The US unemployment rate also fell by a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent during the month. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 1.6 percentage points below its December 2021 level, while the national unemployment rate declined 1.2 percentage points for the year. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry released state figures for December on Jan. 20.

From April 2020 through December 2022, Pennsylvania has recovered about 95% of the jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic, according to Labor & Industry data. Four Supersectors – Trade, Transportation and Utilities; Information; professional and business services; and Manufacturing – were above their pre-pandemic employment levels in December 2022.

Acting Secretary of Labor Nancy Walker said Pennsylvania’s 3.9% rate is encouraging.

“Pennsylvanians are re-entering the workforce, starting new careers and doing jobs that support their families. There are many opportunities for workers in Pennsylvania today,” she said in a statement. Walker added that a tight labor market brings challenges, “particularly for employers who need workers with specialized skills.”

Around the state

Of the state’s 67 counties, Chester County had the second-lowest unemployment rate in December at 2.9%, tied with Montour County. Lancaster County was fourth lowest at 3.0%, tied with Cumberland County. Montgomery County ranked sixth lowest at 3.1%, tied with Center and Perry counties, while Delaware County ranked 20th lowest at 3.8% with Allegheny, Juniata and Northampton. Berks tied for 28th with Westmoreland County at 4%.

Forest and Cameron counties had the highest rate at 5.7%.

The Gettysburg MSA was the lowest among the state’s 18 metro areas at 2.8%. The Lehigh Valley was 3.8% and Lancaster was 3.0%. East Stroudsburg had the highest rate at 5.4%.

Pennsylvania’s January unemployment data will be released by the Department of Labor and Industry on March 10, while county and municipality specific data will be released on March 16.

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