WASHINGTON: The local unemployment rate improved slightly between June and July. The improvement between this year and last is more substantial. Erie County’s unemployment picture improved slightly in July and it continued to reflect a solid improvement over the past year. The seasonally adjusted unemployment number fell from 5.7 percent in June to 5.6 percent in July, according to numbers announced Tuesday by the state Department of Labor & Industry.
The bad news is that, relative to the nation and the rest of the state, Erie continues to underperform. Of the state’s 18 metropolitan areas, only two — Johnstown at 6.1 percent and East Stroudsburg at 5.7 percent — had higher unemployment rates. Meanwhile, the statewide unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, while the national rate was 4.3 percent. The good news is that Erie County’s unemployment rate has improved in dramatic fashion from July 2016, when the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 percent. The trend also has been improving in Crawford County, where the unemployment rate fell from 5.2 to 5.0 percent in July, down from 6.1 percent a year ago. In Erie County, an increase of 1,000 employees over the past year brought the number of people working in education and health services to 28,700, more than offsetting the loss of 300 jobs in manufacturing during that time.
The latest numbers continue to reflect a changing reality. The civilian workforce, the number of people who are either working or looking for work, continues to get smaller. That’s led to lower unemployment rates over the past year at a time when the number of people holding down jobs has actually fallen. It’s not clear whether the decline is due to discouraged workers or an aging population that’s no longer actively looking for work. Whatever the reason, Erie County’s unemployment rate has fallen largely because 2,100 people have left the workforce over the past 12 months.