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Labor Day gloom

Published September 04. 2010 09:00AM

Happy Labor Day?

Not in the local region.

Carbon County has climbed to the fourth worst unemployment rate in the state - 11.4 percent in July. The figure is well over twice the unemployment rate of 10 years ago.

The only counties in the state with higher unemployment rates than Carbon are Cameron (14.0 percent), Fulton (12.7 percent), and Mercer (11.5 percent).

And with little new industry on the immediate horizon for Carbon, it appears that the situation isn't going to improve any time soon.

So dire is Carbon's employment picture that governing bodies within the county constitute four of the top 10 employers: Carbon County Court House, Lehighton Area School District, Jim Thorpe Area School District, and Palmerton Area School District.

For the first time many can recall, Carbon surpassed Schuylkill in the unemployment rate during the past year.

July's unemployment rate for Schuylkill was 11 percent. A decade ago, in July 2000, it was 5.8 percent.

The figures are well above yesterday's reported national unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. They are also above the state-wide unemployment rate of 9.3 percent.

In 51 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, unemployment increased from June to July.

Just two years ago, in July 2008, Carbon had a jobless rate of just 6.7 percent while Schuylkill's was 6.8 percent.

The largest employer in Carbon County is Kovatch Partners, according to the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis.

Two of the top 10 employers, according to the report, are Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital and Palmerton Hospital. However, the two have merged into Blue Mountain Health System.

Also in the top 10 are Blue Ridge Cable Technologies and Pencor Services Inc., even though Blue Ridge is part of the Pencor family.

Although Carbon's unemployment rate is higher than Schuylkill's, the county does have the advantage in household income.

Statistics for July show that Carbon's average median household income is $35,113 while in Schuylkill, it is $32,699, or nearly $2.500 less. Both are well below the state-wide median household income of $40,106.

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