Penn Cinema Re-Opens

Employee Madi Russell, right, takes an order from Sarah Sparks, center, and Becca Webb, left, before they see a movie at Penn Cinema in Lititz on June 26.

The steady decline in Lancaster County’s unemployment rate came to a halt in December, as the rate rose slightly to 4.9%, the state reported Tuesday.

The local rate had receded for seven straight months, from a pandemic-fueled peak in April at 15.2% -- the worst since the Great Depression in the 1930s – to 4.8% in November.

That put the rate on the brink of returning to its pre-pandemic level in the 3% range, where it had hovered for three years.

But it was not to be. A second wave of COVID-19 cases pushed employers to cut their workforces again, as reflected in the December uptick.

The December rate resulted from the county having 269,600 residents with jobs and 13,900 residents without work but actively seeking jobs. A year earlier, when the rate was 3.8%, the county had 3,000 fewer jobless residents.

The new data was largely gathered before the start of Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-week shutdown of selected types of businesses – restaurants’ indoor dining rooms, fitness centers, live-entertainment venues and movie theaters – to contain that second wave.

That shutdown triggered a surge in new claims filed by Lancaster Countians in search of unemployment benefits. So had the December data been collected later in the month, it would have told a darker story.

Despite the increase, the Lancaster County unemployment rate was third best among the 18 metropolitan areas across the state. Gettysburg had the lowest rate (4.4%). State College was the runner-up (4.8%), according to the state Department of Labor & Industry. The worst rate belonged to East Stroudsburg (8.1%).

Both the statewide and nationwide rates were 6.7%.

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