Lehigh Valley’s Unemployment Rate Dipped in December Amid Notable Job Gains

By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on February 2, 2021

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate dropped in December amid notable job gains.

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.5% in December even as business restrictions were implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 during the holidays, according to new data released Feb. 2 by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The metropolitan region that includes Lehigh Valley made the second biggest jump in the Pennsylvania when it came to monthly job gains. The region added 1,000 jobs from November to December, bringing total employment up to 368,300, according to preliminary data.

The gains were made in a time when employment decreased statewide and nationwide in December. Thirteen of Pennsylvania’s 18 metropolitan regions lost jobs.

For the year, jobs were down by 4.2% in Lehigh Valley and 7.8% across the state, according to data analyzed by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

“While December’s employment numbers are encouraging news, we know that certain industries are still feeling pain during a recovery that has not been equal for all sectors of the economy,” said George Lewis, Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Research at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “We lost 1,400 jobs in the hospitality sector in December as in-person dining was suspended during what is historically a busy time for restaurants, but we also saw distribution and online retail companies ramp up to respond to the surge in the e-commerce purchases during the holiday shopping season.”

The preliminary unemployment rate in Lehigh and Northampton counties is .2% lower than the adjusted November rate of 6.7%. Pennsylvania’s preliminary unemployment rate was 6.7% in December.

The unemployment rate is nearly a third of what it was in April when unemployment peaked at 16.6%. The rate is still 1.5% higher than what it was December 2019.

The unemployment rate does not reflect the number of people who dropped out of the labor force. The number of people employed or looking for employment – the number off which the unemployment rate is based – dropped 3.5% from 359,900 in December 2019 to 347,500 in December 2020 in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Here is a breakdown, not adjusted for seasonal variations, of how employment has recovered in the metropolitan region, which includes Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon and Warren counties:

  • The Manufacturing sector gained 300 jobs from November to December, bringing the total to 37,800. It is still down 2,000 jobs from December 2019.
  • The Health Care and Social Assistance sector gained 200 jobs from November to December, bringing the total to 71,300. It is up by 3,300 jobs from December 2019.
  • The Accommodations and Food Service sector was down 1,100 jobs from November to December, bringing the total to 20,400. It is down by 10,700 jobs from December 2019.
  • The Retail sector was up 1,700 jobs from November to December, bringing the total to 42,400. It is up 1,400 over December 2019.
  • The Transportation and Warehousing sector was up 1,500 jobs from November to December, bringing the total to 38,000. It is up 4,600 over December 2019.
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