Erie job growth outpaces national rate

Local economy ends 2013 on high note

Erie-region employers have added 2,800 jobs since December 2012, pushing total employment in the county up 2.2 percent. That’s better than the national growth rate, which was 1.7 percent over the same period.

Manufacturing employment has been less steady, however. Local employment in that sector fell from September to December, said Jim Kurre, professor of economics at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie. Employees at Pennsylvania manufacturing sites also worked fewer hours, on average, each week.

“We always hate to see manufacturing jobs disappear, especially since they tend to be higher-paying jobs,” Kurre said, “but this quarter’s job loss in manufacturing was minimal. And given that sector’s long-term downward trend in employment, a small decrease is not such a bad sign.”

Other economic measures make the forecast for 2014 look even better. The Erie Leading Index, a quarterly snapshot of the region’s economy, surged to a record high in the final quarter of 2013. The growth was consistent: The index, which tracks freight shipments, building permits and the U.S. interest rate spread, among other indicators, set new records each month between May and November.

Six of the eight key indicators measured by the index increased in the final quarter of 2013. The S&P 500 provided the largest boost: It grew by 7.2 percent.

“ELI’s upward trend suggests that Erie’s employment growth will continue into 2014,” Kurre said.

That would continue a trend that began in 2010. Since then, Erie County has restored 7,800 jobs that were lost during the recession. That growth stopped for an extended stretch of 2012 but has since resumed, Kurre said. The addition of 1,500 more jobs would top the county’s pre-recession employment peak, which was set in May 2007.