Kurre: GE Job Losses will 'Pummel' Erie's Economy

Erie-region employers have cut more than 1,000 jobs since early 2012, according to the latest Erie Leading Index, which tracks manufacturing hours, freight shipments and other economic indicators through March.

GE Transportation will double that number this fall, when the company – the largest employer in Erie County – transfers work to a non-union GE plant in Texas. That could raise the county’s unemployment rate by 0.6 percent, said Jim Kurre, professor of economics at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie, which publishes the Erie Leading Index.

“The loss of those good jobs will certainly pummel the local economy a bit,” Kurre said. “But we’ll survive it.”

The Erie economy has absorbed GE layoffs before. In fact, the region has recovered faster than the national average since the start of the last recession, in 2008. Local employment has increased since December.

Gains in the interest-rate spread and the S&P 500 Index helped pull the Erie Leading Index upward, Kurre said. That could mitigate any setbacks in the coming months.

The job losses at GE will have an impact, however. So could a tightened money supply, which would raise interest rates. The Federal Reserve has signaled a possible move in that direction.

Still, Kurre sees no reason to panic. “The tornado siren has not gone off,” he said. “If the rest of the local and U.S. economies continue to grow, however slowly, perhaps Erie can dodge the worst-case scenarios we can all conjure up from the GE situation.”