The unemployment picture in Pike County significantly improved from July to August- but may be just a blip. For August 2012, the jobless rate data from the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics places Pike County at 9.7%. In July the rate was 11.2%. That’s a drop of 1.5%. Michael J. Sullivan, Executive Director of the Pike County Economic Alliance, said he was pleasantly surprised at the report, but cautioned that this was only a short term fluctuation, in a disturbing trend of business and job less in the county. He said that two keys to Pike’s poor economy is lack of retail investment and lack of available sites for new business that are served by water, sewer, gas and Internet. Pike County Chamber of Commerce prepared a graph that stunningly depicts the parallel decrease ofd both businesses and paid employees in Pike County, since 2007 when the national economic recession took hold. For 10 years prior, businesses and employee numbers both grew, with the employee base taking the lead since 2001. Based on US Census data, in 2007, there were 977 business establishments in Pike County, and 8177 paid employees. The last reporting period was in 2010, when there were only 887 businesses (down by 90) and 7569 employees (down by 608). Sullivan warned that the situation isn’t expected to be much better for 2011 or 2012. “We’ve lost 10% of our businesses since 2007,” Sullivan stated. One recent example which he cited was Altec Lansing, which closed shop in Milford Township this year and moved to California. The firm’s closing took about 90 jobs. Contributing to the poor job numbers is the decrease of newcomers arriving and building new homes. Just taking Delaware Township for example, in 2008 there were 125 building permits issued. In 2012, there have been only two. Since 2008, he noted, people wishing to move here from New York State have had great trouble selling their homes. As a result, they are not building new homes in Pike. That affects builders, furniture dealers and many other businesses, which have less work, less customers. Hard times also means less disposable income, with less dollars supporting businesses that support jobs. “We’re doing several things,” Sullivan said. The Chamber and the Pike County Economic Development Authority hopes to attract a major supermarket firm to invest along Route 739, one of the most populous corridors in Pike. Many people travel out of the County to shop, he said. Locations are also needed to attract new business, that have infrastructure available in terms of utilities and Internet. The Pike County Business Park lacks infrastructure. Sullivan commented that more needs to be done to make land available. Pike County continues to expand the acreage set aside for open space, for forest or game lands, making up abut 85% of the county, he observed. A small portion- perhaps 250 acres- could serve for business growth and job creation. The tourism industry also must be encouraged. He said the Pocono Mountain Visitor’s Bureau does a very good job at promoting Pike. Sullivan is also seeking approval for a five year tax abatement program for new business development or business expansion. He commended the Pike County Commissioners, who have been very supportive, while having to balance the interests of others who are not as open to business development.
If distinctions matter, however, let it be known that Pike County is no longer second to Philadelphia County in terms of unemployment for Pennsylvania, not as of August 2012. In July, Pike County had the second highest jobless rate in the state, just behind Philadelphia (11.6%). In August, there were five counties worse off than Pike: Monroe, 9.9; Luzerne 9.9; Forest 10.3; Cameron 11.1 and Philadelphia County, 11.1% Pike tied with Schuylkill County, at 9.7%.
Wayne lowest in NEPA
Wayne County is the comparative bright spot in the northeast, with an unemployment rate of 6.6% in August 2012, This was down by 0.3% from the year earlier, when the rate was 6.9%. The rate in August of this year also was an improvement over July, when Wayne had a 6.8% figure. Lackawanna County’s rate in August was 9.3%; Susquehanna County’s unemployment figure was 7.2%. A year ago in August, Pike was at 9.2%. That was 0.4% less. Statewide, the unemployment rate was 8.1%; in July the rate was 7.9%. The nationwide unemployment rate in August stood at 8.1. The rate in July was 8.3%. September’s jobless rate nationally was set at 7.8%, a figure that has circulated heavily in the presidential election races.
For more information online: Pike County Economic Development Authority www.edapikepa.org Pike County Chamber of Commerce www.pikechamber.com US Dept. of Labor www.bls.gov/ro3/palaus.htm