By Keith Gushard
Unemployment in Crawford County is down to 7.5 percent for February — its lowest level since last May — but the drop may be due to persons leaving the work force rather than finding employment, according to a state labor analyst.
The county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 7.5 percent is down a full percentage point from the 8.5 percent in January, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Crawford County had 39,200 people employed in both February and January, but the number of unemployed fell by 400 from January to February.
Ismael Fertenbaugh, a state labor analyst, said while the drop is welcome, it may not be positive news.
“Discouraged workers may have dropped out, causing the decrease,” Fertenbaugh said, noting unemployment, a lagging economic indicator, is based on a monthly survey of people. Those surveyed who say they not looking for work or who say they not employed are not counted as part of the labor force, he said.
“What likely happened is some people are no longer looking for employment,” Fertenbaugh said of the drop in the number of unemployed.
Crawford County’s total seasonally adjusted labor force for February was 42,400 with 39,200 employed and 3,200 unemployed. In January, the county had a total seasonally adjusted labor force of 42,800, with 39,200 employed and 3,600 unemployed.
Crawford County’s manufacturing employment held steady at 7,200 jobs in February, unchanged from both January and December.
Crawford County has a higher dependence on manufacturing than other areas of the country. About 22 percent of all jobs in the county are in manufacturing, while the figure is only about 10 percent statewide and 11 percent nationally. Most Crawford County manufacturing jobs are related to the tooling and machining industry, with local firms supplying tools and parts to larger manufacturing plants.
The county did have a net job loss of 100 in the service sector of its economy with 23,200 jobs in it in February, down from 23,300 in January. There were 100 fewer jobs in trade, transportation and utilities and 100 fewer jobs in education and health services, but a gain of 100 in local government. Those changes may be due to rounding, Fertenbaugh said.
Crawford County’s rate of 7.5 percent for February was lower than Pennsylvania’s rate of 8.1 percent and the national rate of 7.7 percent for the month.
Unemployment rates in other counties of northwest Pennsylvania fell in February. The rates, listed February, then January, were: Erie, 7.9, 8.0; Mercer, 8.9, 10.0; Venango, 8.3, 9.5; and Warren, 6.4, 7.2.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.