Jobless rates keep climbing; 4K out of work countywide
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create spikes in joblessness in Lycoming and Clinton counties.
So far, more than 5,000 jobs have been lost since last year in the two counties, Department of Labor and Industry and Pennsylvania Economy League statistics showed, and officials blame the pandemic.
As of this week, the labor force in Lycoming County was 52,880. Compared to a year ago, there were 56,896 people working in the county.
The loss of more than 4,000 workers is indicative a troubled economy from closures, furloughs and layoffs. Additionally, the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in 2019, compared to 12.2 percent last month, the report said.
In nearby Clinton County, there were 18,323 workers last year and 17,479 today as a result of the pandemic. The unemployment rate has shot up by 5 percent to 10.9 percent, the report said.
The increase of unemployed workers due to the pandemic has led to spikes in the amount of people applying for unemployment compensation.
In April in Lycoming County, joblessness reached a peak of 16.9 percent, the report said.
The report on joblessness revealed the least amount of people working in Lycoming County since 2015.
In his weekly briefing, Jerry Oleksiak, secretary of the state Department of Labor and Industry, said the department has paid out $32 billion in unemployment compensation benefits since March 15.
That meant 94 percent of those eligible who filed have been paid. For the six percent who were not yet paid, the cases are under review, he said.
The customer service office has put in 229,726 hours of overtime. The center began with 775 workers and is at 1,719 employees with another round of applicants expected to be hired and trained in September, he said.
The system has recorded 690,000 emails, 315,000 telephone calls, 122 chats or texts and 279,000 calls to virtual assistance, Oleksiak said.
There have been 4,000 fraudulent unemployment claims, he said.
The $600 in federal pandemic unemployment compensation expired July 25.
The average state unemployment compensation payment in May was $345 a week.
Democrats in Congress have pushed to renew the $600 weekly benefit in any new stimulus bill, congressional Republicans are considering several amounts.
The Republican proposal would include a $200 flat-rate weekly benefit that would eventually be replaced by a payment that, combined with regular state unemployment benefits, would add up to 70 percent of a worker’s normal wages.
Oleksiak encouraged those who are looking for work to check out the Pennsylvania CareerLink offices.
He also said the department will hold its next town hall meeting live at 1 p.m. Thursday. To tune in, visit access.live/pa.labor.