A leading indicator of unemployment in Lancaster County dropped significantly closer to its pre-pandemic norm last week, new data shows.
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits filed by countians fell 21.8% to 417 claims, its lowest mark since late November, the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board reported Thursday.
“The trend in initial claims suggests conditions are normalizing,” said economist Naomi Young, director of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County’s Center for Regional Analysis.
“The data shows the demographic composition of those filing and the overall levels of (new) claims beginning to look more ‘pre-pandemic.’ This is a good sign, but a full recovery is a ways off,” she said.
Lancaster Countians typically filed about 200 new claims for unemployment benefits per week until COVID-19 arrived in mid-March.
Gov. Tom Wolf responded with business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, inducing widespread layoffs that pushed the weekly number of new claims to a peak of 15,700 in early April.
But as the year progressed and the volume of new COVID-19 cases waned, so did the weekly volume of new claims. It fell as far as 247 in November – only to have a surge of new cases, then a new shutdown by Wolf, trigger a rebound in new claims.
That bounce-back proved to be temporary, though. Last week’s decline was the fourth drop in the past five weeks, board figures show.
Lancaster County’s decline was mirrored by the statewide tally but ran counter to the national figure. New claims (formally known as initial claims) in Pennsylvania tumbled 11.4% to 28,100 last week. But nationwide, new claims rose 1.5% to 861,000, the U.S. Department of Labor reported.
Continued claims filed by already-idled countians who want to keep receiving benefits ebbed too.
The number of continued claims receded by 8.6% to 10,600 in the week ended Feb. 6, the most recent period for which data is available. The figure is the lowest since late December.