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Pennsylvania Department of Health posted this image on social media July 8, 2020, with the message: "Protect yourself, your family, your friends and people in your community from #COVID19 with these simple actions:

* wear a mask when you leave home

* stay at least 6 feet away from those not living in your household

* wash your hands frequently

#MaskUpPA #covidstopswithme"

Without the spate of layoffs triggered by Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-week shutdown of certain types of businesses, the number of newly idled Lancaster Countians fell again last week, fresh data shows.

The number of countians filing new claims for unemployment benefits dipped 8.5% to 540, the second straight decrease, the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board said Thursday.

While that figure represents an improvement from the recent crest near 700, the number remains somewhat above the 449 new claims filed by countians the week before Wolf’s Dec. 10 announcement that a shutdown was coming.

Wolf’s tightening and loosening of restrictions on business and travel -- synced to the vacillating threat posed by the virus -- have driven unemployment levels up and down since the pandemic hit in mid-March.

That arrival prompted him to close all but essential businesses and order residents to stay home, which made new initial claims soar to a peak of 15,700 in early April. The weekly volume then dwindled steadily, ebbing to the 200s last fall.

The descent was reversed by a second wave of COVID-19 and Wolf’s response,

This latest cohort of newly idled workers represents a cross-section of the county’s economy, according to board statistics. They were laid off by restaurants, manufacturers, live-entertainment venues and distribution/fulfillment centers, among other employers.

Lancaster-based economist Adam Ozimek observed last week that the most damaging restraint on the economy, including the workforce, is not government restrictions but the virus. That makes following public health guidelines a key to an economic recovery, he added.

The local downturn in new claims (formally called initial claims) was echoed by a 7.3% decrease nationally to 847,000 and a 23.9% decline statewide to 25,100, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Continued claims filed by already idled countians, so they can keep receiving unemployment benefits, receded too. These claims slid 8.7% to 11,700 in the week ended Jan. 16, the most recent period for which data is available.

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