Lycoming County leads state on average job recovery post-pandemic
Lycoming County is still leading the state average of job recovery since the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as of May.
The Williamsport Metropolitan Statistical Area, from May 2020 to May 2021, has a recovery rate of 71.3 percent compared to the statewide recovery rate of 63.8 percent, according to Steven Zellers, an industry and business analyst for the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.
“The further we get along from the worst moment of the worst impact, the closer everyone is going to get. A rising tide lifts all boats,” Zellers said.
Williamsport’s unemployment rate rests at 6.4 percent, almost a percentage point’s change from April and March’s plateau at 7.3 percent. The state average unemployment rate is 6.9, and the national rate is 5.8.
In May of 2020, Lycoming saw an employment rate of 12.6; the county has almost cut that steep climb in half over the course of the pandemic.
That sets Williamsport at 12th out of the 18 metropolitical statistical areas in Pennsylvania, according to Zellers.
Williamsport’s seasonally adjusted labor force for May was at 54,800 people, with 3,500 unemployed and seeking jobs.
Previously, the metropolitan statistical area, which covers Lycoming County, had a seasonally adjusted labor force of 55,300 and unemployment of 4,000.
A metropolitan statistical area is defined as having at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants. A micropolitan statistical area has at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 and fewer than 50,000 inhabitants.
“Not all the restrictions for COVID had been released in May and April. People aren’t necessarily returning to their normal behavior,” Zellers said. “It’s going to be awhile before the ebb and flow balances out.”
But, Zellers said, Williamsport should not throw in the towel yet.
“Expect that to reverse itself in the coming months. Hiring usually goes up as summer begins in earnest,” Zellers said. “And as COVID restrictions ease and people are more comfortable being out and about and returning to normal behavior, business demand will be going up.”
The state Department of Labor and Industry’s reports are delayed by a few weeks to a month to give its employees time to accurately report the previous month’s findings. Zellers pointed out this data is from May, before Pennsylvania’s mask mandate was lifted June 28.
Williamsport’s current unemployment rate is comparable to those of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Williamsport’s 6.4 percent stands next to the two major metropolitan statistical areas’ seasonally adjusted 6.5 percent reported.
“Williamsport is similar in that you rely on service industries,” Zellers said.
Of the 50,600 goods-producing jobs in Lycoming County, 40,600 are currently service variety. When the pandemic arrived in the United States, that industry was impacted the most.
Zellers said that as the months go on, the rate of recovery will progressively slow down as all metropolitan statistical areas begin to balance closer to a unified average.