By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
MERCER COUNTY —
Area layoffs, a rise in the labor force and seasonal factors such as retailers trimming staff after the holidays resulted in Mercer County’s unemployment rate surging to 9.9 percent in January, well above December’s 8.3 percent rate.
While January’s results are preliminary and may be revised up or down when final results are in next month, historically, those revisions don’t result in dramatic changes. December’s rate could also change as it is the month the state completes an overall yearly record update which should be finished in April.
January’s local jobless rate shoots the county above the national 7.9 percent rate and the state’s 8.2 percent rate.
Mercer County’s jobless rate ranked 51st among the state’s 67 counties in terms of the best rate, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry which released unemployment figures on Friday.
January was a rough month for most of the state as 60 of the 67 counties saw unemployment rate increases with two counties remaining flat and only five down. The five counties recording a drop only saw a slight one-tenth of a percent decrease.
Wheatland Tube Co. had some layoffs in January and the closing of the New Castle Youth Development Center in Shenango Township, Lawrence County, also had an impact among Mercer County residents employed there.
The 100-bed center, located on Frew Mill Road, was operated by the state and employed 223, with around 33 of those being Mercer County residents. The state said by closing the center because it could save $73 million over five years. It was estimated it cost $725 a day per child to be housed at the center.
Figures show the civilian labor force was 54,800 in January, up from December’s 53,700. The number of employed decreased from 49,500 to 49,00 over the same period.
Those unemployed grew to 5,800 in January from December’s 4,200.
Retail trade fell 400 jobs in January from December while education and health services dropped by 800 jobs, largely due to local colleges still reopening after the holidays.
Cameron County had the highest unemployment rate in the state at 12.8 percent while Centre had the lowest at 5.9 percent.