Somerset County unemployment rate spikes
Somerset County Economic Development Council (Staff photo by Roger Vogel / March 19, 2013)
The increase brought the unemployment rate up to 10.8 percent. The rate has only reached double digits one other time since 1993 — in February 2010.
The Somerset County unemployment rate was the highest in a five-county region in western Pennsylvania. Bedford County had the next highest unemployment rate at 10.6 percent. Cambria County's unemployment rate was 9.3 percent. The state average was 8.2, while the national average was 7.9.
Somerset County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ron Aldom said he is optimistic that better days are ahead.
"My feeling is that we will see that starting to go back down," he said.
He attributed the spike partially to a PBS Coals layoff of 138 employees Dec. 13.
He said the winter season is a slow period for some industries, such as manufacturing and construction. Some companies, he said, will shut down for one week or more during the holidays.
"It's a down time for the year, and right before the holidays," he said.
The department data showed a loss of 100 jobs in mining, logging and construction from December to January.
The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes ski resorts, realized a 200-job increase in December, according to the department.
Somerset County Commissioner Joe Betta said commissioners are doing their best to combat unemployment. But he said he thinks joblessness will only increase.
"The only insight I've got is that it's going to get worse," he said.
He said commissioners and the Somerset County Economic Development Council will soon deploy an action plan to bring more businesses to Somerset County.
The first step is advertising.
"What we're trying to do is increase confidence in businesses coming to Somerset, which is going to be a long road to hoe," he said.
The Laurel Highlands Business Park in Somerset Township has 100 acres ready to house new businesses.