By JONATHAN BERGMUELLER

[email protected]

The Williamsport area boasts a job-recovery of 60.9 percent since the initial state shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry numbers.

From the end of last April to January 2021, the Williamsport Metropolitan Statistical Area has recovered 5,300 jobs of the 8,700 jobs that vanished between February and April due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Steven Zellers, an industry and business analyst with the department of labor and industry.

The area itself still has an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent from data collected in January, a slight increase from December’s reported 7.1 percent. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate sits at 7.3 percent, while the nation’s rests at 6.3 percent.

According to labor and industry data, Williamsport’s labor force increased from 52,200 in December to 55,200 in January; employment increased from 48,500 to 51,000; and unemployment increased from 3,700 to 4,200.

However, the Department of Labor and Industry, which reports sample data through monthly press releases, recently completed an annual change for its benchmark.

This means that until all its data sets are updated to the new benchmark, comparing numbers reported between December and January is as fruitless as comparing apples to oranges, according to Zellers.

The department is midway through those revisions, meaning reasonably comparable data will be released with the March data on April 27.

Still, it is clear to Zellers that Williamsport is picking up steam. Before it struck an 60.9 percent recovery, Williamsport previously reported it recovered 49.6 percent of the jobs lost between February and April 2020 — the initial bludgeon of the COVID-19 pandemic — compared to Pennsylvania’s average recovery of 57.7 percent back in November.

The region’s near 60 percent recovery rate holds up against Pennsylvania’s plateauing recovery of 59.8 percent recovery.

“Relative to the state, you’re doing well as far as the industry data, as well as the unemployment rate, which we believe will change,” Zellers said.

Zellers said while he cannot provide detailed analysis due to the incompatibility of the department’s data, he could discuss typical seasonal movements for the month of January.

As the weather gets colder, leisure and hospitality jobs tend to disappear, while the exodus of holiday shoppers results in measurable decreases in transportation and retail services. Finally, schools and colleges releasing students for winter break brings some education jobs down.

The straight numbers reported for January show a 500-job drop in trade, transportation and utilities jobs and a 200 drop in state government jobs.

Meanwhile, that data shows a 1,000-job drop in total non-farm jobs and an 800-job drop in total private jobs.

Several typical seasonal movements. As it gets colder, leisure and hospitality go down ,and holiday shopping going down decreases transportation, delivery, retail. Schools and colleges went down over break.

Data reflecting on Williamsport’s employment for the month of February will be released April 6. The department of labor and industry releases data several weeks after the month’s end.

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