Lehigh Valley Labor Market Continues To Improve

City of Allentown from east side

City of Allentown from east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lehigh Valley labor market continued to improve in February, with businesses adding jobs and residents finding work.

The Valley had 337,600 jobs in February, up 6,400 compared with the same month a year ago, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Labor and Industry. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent in February, down from 8.2 percent in January and the lowest it’s been since March 2009. 

The job gains came through most of the private sector. Jobs added at hospitals, hotels, temporary staffing firms, warehouses and stores were partially offset by losses in manufacturing and government.

Tourism In Berks Bouncing Back

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whether they soaked up sounds at Berks Jazz Fest, watched cars tear up the track at Maple Grove Raceway or savored roasted ox at the Kutztown Folk Festival, tourists have increased their spending in Berks County.

A state report on tourism in calendar year 2010, the latest year for which numbers are available, showed Berks tourism spending increased by 10.3 percent from 2009 to $687.7 million.

It was, for Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau President Crystal A. Seitz, a healthy dose of good news after a difficult recession.

Seitz said, “I am in love with those numbers.”

Read more: http://businessweekly.readingeagle.com/?p=3003

Lancaster County Jobless Rate Drops To 6.3 Percent

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lancaster County unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in January, a three-year low, the state said Thursday.

The drop from December’s 6.7 percent marked the fourth time in the past five months that the jobless rate here has dipped.

January’s figure is the best here since January 2009’s rate of 6 percent, according to the state Department of Labor & Industry.

Bill Sholly, an industry and business analyst with the department, said he was encouraged to see more county residents with jobs.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/605844_Jobless-rate-in-Lancaster-County-drops-to-6-3-.html#ixzz1pmp8SUos

Bethlehem Mayor Announces $56 Million In Development At Former Bethlehem Steel Site

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan on Wednesday announced $56 million of economic development for two projects at the former Bethlehem Steel plant — two buildings that could be used for warehousing or light assembly.

Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII is negotiating for a 175,000-square-foot facility along Route 412.

Liberty Property Trust has filed plans for an 800,000-square-foot speculative building, one that would be built without a formal commitment from whoever ends up using it.

While Callahan didn’t have any job estimates on that building, he noted that a 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse under way is expected to bring as many as 500 jobs once a tenant is signed.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-bethlehem-state-of-city-callahan-20120314,0,5953407.story

Allentown Jobs: Lehigh Valley Ranks Fourth In Business Development

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Editor’s note:  This is great news for Pennsylvania!

The Lehigh Valley ranked fourth in new business development among mid-size metro areas for 2011 in an annual survey published by Site Selection magazine.

The magazine’s readers include economic development officials and key corporate decision-makers who choose new locations for businesses looking to relocate or expand.

Site Selection ranks metro areas by the number of “corporate facility expansion projects” they attract. In the category of metro areas with populations between 200,000 and 1 million, the Lehigh Valley reported 28 such projects in 2011, one more than the Harrisburg-Carlisle region.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-allentown-area-jobs-ranking-20120309,0,7746005.story

Carpenter Buys Former Dana Site

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Carpenter Technology Corp. announced Friday that it has purchased the former Dana Corp. industrial site for about $6 million.

The Spring Township-specialty steel and alloy maker bought the 50-acre industrial property where General Motors vehicle frames were once produced from Reading Industrial Investments Corp., Ambler, Montgomery County.

What Carpenter got in the deal is about 40 acres of land and an additional area where four buildings are located, at West Robeson and Weiser streets, adjacent to Carpenter’s East Shore property.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=367183

As Gas Drilling Boom Slows, Worry Sets In

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Bradford County

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TOWANDA, PA – Vince Arena has a commanding view of Route 6 from Moore’s Auto Showroom. Since 2006, he has seen the traffic on the two-lane road swell with the region’s gas boom until it is bumper-to-bumper, light-to-light for miles just about all day.

Every few seconds, a tractor-trailer hauling water or massive pumps to or from drill sites rumbles past. For the last few weeks, however, Mr. Arena has been able to pull out from his lot without relying on the kindness of other motorists to let him out.

In January, one of the region’s largest gas drillers, Chesapeake Energy Corp., announced it would reduce its rig count in the region. Its rig count will go from 75 to 24, drilling fewer new wells and reducing the flow from existing wells. Other companies made similar announcements.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/as-gas-drilling-boom-slows-worry-sets-in-1.1273569#ixzz1mrJwxXny

Gasoline Pushes Inflation Up In January

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Gasoline prices jumped in January, leading overall consumer prices higher and offering a reminder of the risks energy costs pose to the economic recovery.

Despite the warning signal, overall consumer prices rose just 0.2 percent, the Labor Department said on Friday, which is unlikely to ring alarm bells at the Federal Reserve.

Strong jobs and factory data have eased worries U.S. economic growth could slow sharply, but tensions between Western nations and Iran still threaten to hand the economy a repeat of 2011 when a spike in energy prices hit the recovery hard.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/business/sns-rt-us-usa-economytre7bm0ab-20120103,0,2516876.story

Gas Prices’ Earliest-Ever Rise Above $3.50 A Bad Sign For Motorists

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American motorists have seen the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline rise above $3.50 a gallon on just three occasions, but it has never happened this early in the year. Analysts say it’s likely a sign that pain at the pump will rise to some of the highest levels ever seen later this year.

In 2008, average gasoline prices had hit inflation-adjusted records nationally by the summer, but they didn’t climb above $3.50 a gallon across the U.S. that year until April 21, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. It happened again last year, but not until March 6.

But $3.50 a gallon gasoline is already here in 2012, weeks before refineries typically shut down for springtime maintenance, and weeks before the states switch from their less expensive winter blends of gasoline to more complicated and pricier summer blends.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-gas-prices-20120214,0,2776477.story

Berks-Area Malls And Strips Find Challenges Of Economic Downturn Linger

There is no question that retail businesses have been suffering for the past two years as a result of a weak economy.

Economists predict only slight improvement in 2012. So what does that mean for our local malls and shopping centers?

Shopping Centers Today, a leading publication in the industry, reported in January that shopping center vacancies in the United States averaged 11 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. That figure was up from 10.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 and not far from the all-time high of 11.1 percent reached in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Read more: http://businessweekly.readingeagle.com/?p=1899

Mayors Tout Jobs Growth In Lehigh Valley

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As a national jobs report released Friday pointed to a surge in hiring, the mayors of four of the Lehigh Valley‘s largest municipalities gathered in front of the future minor league hockey arena in Allentown to tout the Valley’s growth.

The mayors — Ed Pawlowski of Allentown, John Callahan of Bethlehem, Sal Panto Jr. of Easton and Ed Hozza Jr. of Whitehall Township — didn’t announce a new project on the same scale as Steel Stacks or an out-of-state company bringing hundreds of jobs. Instead, they praised the creation of 40 jobs for workers who are making way for the hockey arena at Seventh and Hamilton streets.

That number, Pawlowski said, will grow to 1,000 during construction.

The mayors gathered in front of the demolition site just days after revelations that the special tax district that will help pay for the $158-million arena may divert and delay the return of the Valley’s municipalities’ earned income taxes.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-hockey-arena-jobs-20120203,0,1222186.story

Kodak Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

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ROCHESTER, NY Eastman Kodak Co., running short of cash and unable to sell 1,100 digital imaging patents that could have rescued it, filed Wednesday for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The iconic Rochester company, whose history dates to the late 19th century and the technical and marketing genius of founder George Eastman, has been besieged for the past three months by rumors that it would make a bankruptcy filing. Those rumors had intensified in the past two weeks.

“After considering the advantages of Chapter 11 at this time, the board of directors and the entire senior management team unanimously believe that this is a necessary step and the right thing to do for the future of Kodak,” CEO Antonio M. Perez said in announcing the decision.

Read more: http://www.stargazette.com/article/20120119/BUSINESS/201190344/Kodak-files-Chapter-11-bankruptcy?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

Pennsylvania Jobless Rate Falls In December

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According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the commonwealth’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in December, down from 7.9 percent in November.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was below the U.S. rate of 8.5 percent, and has been below the U.S. rate for 62 consecutive months.

Read more: http://www.dailylocal.com/articles/2012/01/21/news/srv0000016915587.txt

Kraft Foods Announces 1,600 Job Cuts

Kraft Foods plans to cut 1,600 positions from its North American division this year as it prepares to split into two companies, but no Lehigh Valley jobs will be lost, the packaged foods giant announced Tuesday.

Kraft said the cuts will not hit production facilities. The company has a 1-million-square-foot plant in Upper Macungie where it makes Grey Poupon mustard, A-1 Steak Sauce, T-Discs for the Tassimo hot beverage maker, natural cheese products.

The Northfield, Illinois company also has a distribution center in Bethlehem Township.

The company said no Lehigh Valley jobs are targeted in this round of cost-cutting. However, all facilities will be reviewed once the split is complete, it said.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-allentown-kraft-cuts-20120117,0,1257961.story

Poor Economy Boosts Mass Transit Ridership In Butler County

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When John Paul of the Butler Transit Authority saw the numbers of riders increasing in big numbers late last year, he thought, “Wow, that was a good month.”

When it happened again the next month, he thought it was a fluke.

Now that it has happened for six consecutive months, he’s calling it a trend.

In fact, overall use of public transit in Butler County is skyrocketing, a fact that local experts link to dual factors of a battered economy and improvements in the transit systems.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12005/1201300-54-0.stm#ixzz1idLTnao0

Pennsylvania’s CHIP Program Has Growing Numbers

As hard times and high unemployment rates continue across the country, a program that aims to cover all uninsured children and teens in Pennsylvania has seen steady growth regionally and across the state.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, was launched in Pennsylvania in 1992 and was used as a model for the federal program four years later, according to state Insurance Department spokeswoman Melissa Fox. As of this month, CHIP covered nearly 194,500 children and teens, about a 17 percent increase from 2007.

Locally, CHIP enrollment has also seen growth. In Lackawanna County, nearly 3,000 kids and teens were covered by CHIP, a 22 percent increase since 2007. Luzerne County saw a 33 percent jump in members during the same time frame, with about 4,600 kids and teens covered right now.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/children-s-health-insurance-program-seeing-steady-increases-1.1249337#ixzz1hghhKmT1

Poor Economy Great For Dollar Stores

Dollar stores have evolved into a go-to spot for holiday shoppers on a tight budget or trying to get more value for their money. In contrast with the often dingy spaces they once occupied, many have undergone renovations and are stocked with a bounty of Christmas trees, wrapping paper, toys and inexpensive electronics for the holiday season. Some even carry steaks.

With the job market and economy still unsettled, dollar stores are predicted to perform robustly as shoppers of all incomes flock there to pick up cheap decor and presents. For the fourth quarter, the category is expected to post a sales increase of 4.2% or higher at stores open at least a year, according to business data firm Thomson Reuters.

Although dollar stores have attracted higher-income customers in recent years, the fallout of the nation’s economic downturn is still especially evident in the aisles of these low-cost stores during the holidays.

Read more: http://www.mcall.com/business/la-fi-dollar-store-christmas-20111221,0,3740256.story

Metropolitan Pittsburgh Records Population Gain For Second Year In A Row

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For most of the span since the end of World War II, more people have been leaving the Pittsburgh region than flocking to it.

For the second year in a row, that trend has been halted. The relative health of the local economy appears to be a motivator for retaining existing Pittsburghers and creating new ones.

The seven-county metropolitan region attracted 1,430 more people than the number who left it between 2009 and 2010, based on new Internal Revenue Service migration data, according to a report by Christopher Briem, a regional economist for the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11344/1195941-53.stm#ixzz1gBpZAiaH