The Lehigh Valley‘s unemployment rate crept up in September as the labor force continued to grow at a faster pace than businesses are hiring.
A total of 394,200 Valley residents had jobs in September, up 200 from August, according to data released Wednesday by the state Department of Labor and Industry. But the labor force grew by 500 in the same period to hit 432,200. That imbalance between job seekers and opportunities pushed the unemployment rate to 8.8 percent in September, up from 8.7 percent in August.
Sluggish job growth has been a nagging strain on the Valley economy for several months. Businesses are consistently adding jobs — the number of Valley residents employed in September was up 9,400 from a year earlier. But the labor force continues to grow at a faster pace, and September’s unemployment rate is unchanged from a year earlier.
The sodden, wind-blown tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania began an arduous journey back to normal on Wednesday after mammoth storm Sandy killed at least 82 people in a rampage that swamped coastal cities and cut power to millions across the Northeast.
Financial markets reopened with the New York Stock Exchange running on generator power after the first weather-related two-day closure since an 1888 blizzard. Packed buses took commuters to work with New York’s subway system idle after seawater flooded its tunnels.
The U. S. Navy said it was moving ships closer to areas affected by the disaster in case they might be needed, including the helicopter carrier USS Wasp.
Sandy killed 69 people in the Caribbean as a hurricane before crashing ashore just south of Atlantic City, N.J. Monday night as Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, which became a rare hybrid superstorm after merging with another weather system to deliver 80 mile-per-hour winds and record storm surges.
The city of Reading and its outside consultants have come up with a new tax plan using a complex and untested state law to pay for the 49 percent hike in pension contributions the state is requiring it to make in 2013.
Essentially, Act 205 says cities facing sudden dramatic pension-cost increases can levy a so-called distressed pension tax, either as a separate property tax or a separate earned income tax. But every nickel collected has to be used to pay off that obligation, not spent anywhere else.
At City Council’s Wednesday night budget session, the consultants recommended applying it to the earned-income tax – using the same rate for both residents and commuters – since the administration and council don’t like the 15 percent property tax hike that’s already in the budget.
Gordon Mann, a consultant for Public Financial Management who is leading the team, said the tax cap is based on a complex formula comparing pension contributions and city payroll for three years.