2009-07-04 / Front Page

Cameron County's jobless rate highest in Pa

Unemployment in Potter County remains in double digits

Cameron County holds the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the state. While a few points lower, Potter County's joblessness also remains in the double-digits and is likely to be boosted by layoffs at Morgan AM&T in late June.

Statewide, the unemployment rate continued its climb in May, rising four-tenths of a percentage point to 8.2 percent; that number is up 3.1 percentage points from a year earlier. Joblessness in Pennsylvania remains lower than the national rate of 9.4 percent.

At 18.6 percent in May, up from April's 16.4 percent, Cameron County's jobless rate has soared more than twice as high as the state rate. In May 2008, the county's unemployment rate stood at 7.3 percent.

Much of the rise over the past year can be attributed to the past year's decline in the automotive industry, which is closely linked to the powdered metals industry in this region.

Potter County's unemployment rate held steady from April to May, at 11.5 percent. Potter was one of just four counties in Pennsylvania which did not see a rise in May. But Potter's jobless rate is still nearly twice as high as the same month in 2008, when it stood at 6.8 percent.

Elk and McKean counties have also been hit hard, with May seasonally adjusted unemployment rates of 15.4 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. Both have almost doubled from where they stood in 2008, and both represented increases over the previous month.

The limited availability of jobs within Cameron County currently is reflected in the number of job postings on the Pa. CareerLink website. A search confined to Cameron County revealed only 12 job listings; in Potter County, 77 were listed. Forty-nine listings were available for Elk County. Listings can represent multiple open positions.

More than 200 participants registered for the recent "Here to Help Day" sponsored by CareerLink and other county and state agencies. While some visitors said they were encouraged after talking to employers who were present, others walked away discouraged.

Unemployment statistics understate the problem, as they reflect only adults who are actively seeking jobs and receiving unemployment compensation (UC) in the interim. They do not include those who have given up, those who have exhausted their UC but are still unable to find work, and the "underemployed" who are holding part-time jobs to get by.

According to the Dept. of Labor and Industry's Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, statewide, Mining and Logging, Education and Health Services and Government are the only three employment categories which have shown increases in employment over the past year.

"Losing your job is listed as one of the ten most stressful situations you will encounter," said Terry Cole, site administrator for the Potter County CareerLink office in Coudersport.

The first step for an employee who has been laid off or lost a job is to file for unemployment compensation, then visit the CareerLink office to work with staff and use online services to review openings in local and surrounding counties and statewide, Cole explained. Networking with former coworkers, family and friends can also reveal other job opportunities. CareerLink also offers help with reemployment plans, understanding of the labor market and industries currently hiring, on-the-job training opportunities, further training, apprenticeship, business start-up and more.

Numbers to call are 486-3729 in Cameron County and 274-9330 in Potter.

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