Opportunities abound, but where are the candidates?

“There are a lot of jobs out there.”

So said Sharon Jones, who coordinated the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce’s recent Job Fair at Liberty Arena in downtown Williamsport.

The question is, “Who wants them?”

Or maybe, “Who’s ready to roll up their sleeves and get back to work?”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a widespread issue with finding employees.

“Help Wanted” ads were prevalent in this newspaper and on jobs.sungazette.com and signs were posted around town.

We wonder if we are getting back to that, or if perhaps people still are not comfortable enough to return to the workforce that requires reporting to a physical work site?

“I think there are more jobs than people participating in the job market,” observed Darren Welshans, service delivery director for Manpower, who said he would have liked to have seen more people attend the event than those who did.

Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate for Pennsylvania was a couple of percentage points lower than what it is now — 5.1 percent compared with the current 7.3 percent as of Friday.

Where once upon a time, dozens of qualified candidates applied for a single opening, it had become tough to find the right person.

Consider the statistics. The state unemployment rate hit a low of 4.1 percent in September 2018, a number that held steady for four months before inching up to 4.3 percent in January 2019 and 4.4 percent in June 2019.

By March 2020, right before the pandemic, it was at 5.1 percent, then spiked to 16.2 percent in April as businesses were shuttered by state mandate.

But the situation eased.

By this past September, unemployment had calmed down to 7.1 percent, a number that has held relatively steady. It’s been at 7.3 percent since January.

That’s statewide. For the Williamsport Metro Area, the unemployment rate peaked in April 2020 at 17.4 percent, with 9,240 people unemployed, and had dropped to 7.6 percent by January. There are now 5,054 fewer people unemployed in the metropolitan area.

And employers have vacancies to fill … plenty of vacancies.

The message is that, for those without work, there are opportunities out there. Businesses, manufacturers and those in the health care industry — and many others — are looking for help.

We need to get back to full participation in the workforce.

The mentally focused and able-bodied are needed.

So where are the applicants?


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