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Lehigh Valley’s Unemployment Rate Dropped Slightly in July

By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on September 1, 2020

Lehigh Valley Unemployment Rate in July

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate in July slid nearly a half percent, new state data shows. (Graphic/Liz Martin)

Lehigh Valley’s unemployment rate in July slid nearly a half percent to 13.8%, a modest drop suggesting that the economic recovery could be gradual even as thousands of jobs are added to the regional payroll, new state data shows.

The unemployment rate is down from a peak of 16.6% in April but is still more than three times as much as it was before the business the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of unemployed in July totaled 49,200 of a 356,900 Lehigh Valley labor force, according to the preliminary data released Sept. 1 by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The state also revised the June unemployment rate as 14.2%.

What do other indicators say: Despite the unemployment rate remaining in double-digits, Lehigh Valley employers have added jobs for three straight months. The number of non-farm jobs in the region went from a low of 322.1 million in April to 353.9 million in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary estimates for that month. The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C-based think tank, ranked Lehigh Valley’s job growth percentage from July among the Top 10 for metropolitan regions between 500,000 and 1 million people.

Online job postings, as measured by Chmura Economics JobsEQ platform, show some of the top positions advertised for are in the logistics industrial sector.

Lehigh Valley, which sits 90 minutes west of New York City and 60 minutes north of Philadelphia, is a hub for logistics.  Distribution and e-commerce centers have become an essential part of the quarantine economy where online shopping has gained momentum.

Lehigh Valley is among the top 10 regions in the country with the percentage of “exposed” workers – those who have jobs in demand during the pandemic and cannot work from home, according to a report published by Apartmentlist.com.

What’s next: The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reports the number of people who file initial unemployment claims fell by 100 to 1,246 in Lehigh and Northampton counties for the week ending Aug. 22. The people filing continuing claims continued to slowly drop from 33,027 the week ending Aug. 15 to 32,839 the week ending Aug. 22. That’s about half what it was at its peak in spring.

But the number for both claim types is still greater than February before the pandemic hit. Initial claims are about twice as much as they were at the end of February; continuing claims are five times greater.

Among the industrial sectors that make up a larger percentage of those claims is accommodation and food services at 20%, health care and social assistance at 15% and retail trade at 11%.

Millennials and Generation Z make up a greater portion of those continuing claims than other age groups, according to the state’s latest figures for the week ending August 22. It shows 38% of the claims in the Lehigh Valley are from people between 16-34 years old while that age group makes up 25% of the total population in Lehigh Valley.

Nearly 20% of the claims are from people 35-44 years old, 17% from 45-54, 16.5% from 55-64 and 8.4% from those 65 and older. Those age groups respectively comprise 25%, 12%, 13%, 14% and 18% of Lehigh Valley’s population.

What’s going on in the rest of Pennsylvania: The statewide unemployment rate crept up a half percent to 13.7% in July, according to seasonally adjusted, preliminary data released by the Department of Labor and Industry. It’s still more than three times what the unemployment rate was in July 2019.

The number of non-farm jobs statewide was 5.5 million, nearly 100,000 more than June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The July unemployment rate estimates 886,000 people are unemployed.

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