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Local unemployment low thanks to gold collar jobs

While state unemployment levels continue to climb above the national average, Cumberland County’s own numbers are much lower, partly due to an influx of “gold collar” job opportunities. In December 2013, the county’s unemployment dropped to 5.3 percent – a far cry from the national average of 6.7 percent and lower still from the state’s 6.9 percent unemployment rate. “Skilled trades are in high demand,” said Jim Carchidi, executive vice president of the Camp Hill-based JFC Staffing Companies. “From Franklin to Dauphin, we’re one of the best areas for those positions.” Cumberland County’s proximity to three major highways – Interstates 81 and 83 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike – puts 36 percent of the nation’s population within a day’s drive of the Midstate, a selling feature for developers who want to expand retail trade, warehousing and distribution centers in the Northeast. “There are still companies aggressively seeking this area,” Carchidi said. “I live here, and some days I wish they didn’t have to put another warehouse in this area, but people have the misconception that it’s all low-wage positions.” Carchidi says large distribution centers typically bring a dozen or two dozen high-end career opportunities, though those positions still remain disproportionate to the lower-wage positions. Goodman Birtcher’s proposed 3-million-square-foot warehouse that straddles four municipalities in the central part of the county – Carlisle Borough and Dickinson, South Middleton and West Pennsboro townships – would bring 1,000-plus jobs to the Midstate. Goodman Birtcher spokesman Tom Ahern told The Sentinel last year there’s a well-educated, stable work force available in the area to fill a number of types of jobs. Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies – such as those to whom Goodman Birtcher is talking – require larger, contiguous spaces to house both logistics and professional jobs.

Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp. CEO Jonathan Bowser said that manufacturing growth, the county’s third-largest industry, has helped keep job creation steady. “I think unemployment is one of the things that is really important to me that we really hang our hat on,” he said. “We are definitely closing the gap on unemployment, so I think it’s a sign that our economy is definitely headed in the right direction.” Bowser said the county ranks fifth statewide for the lowest unemployment rate – a number he hopes will keep dropping in 2014.

 

Read the remainder of the Sentinel article here.

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