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.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s temporary shutdown of restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and other businesses to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases continues to inflate the number of newly idled Lancaster Countians to levels last seen in July, new data shows.

Some 617 countians filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, keeping the weekly volume of newly jobless countians above 600 for the second straight week, according to figures released Thursday by the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board.

While that’s a 7.7% drop from the number of new claims filed the prior week, it’s also more than double the levels seen earlier this fall, when new claims dropped into the 200s for eight straight weeks. That put them near their levels before COVID-19 arrived in mid-March.

As expected, the wave of newly employed countians includes many people who were working at the types of businesses that Wolf closed, as well as seasonal layoffs in landscaping and construction, data from the board shows.

Wolf’s order closed certain categories of businesses for three weeks, to end Monday. Wolf announced this week that the mitigation effort has been effective, so the temporary shutdown will not be extended.

That raises the prospect of at least some of those newly idled workers being recalled, tempered by the time of year for some industries – January is the slowest month of the year for the restaurant industry, for instance.

The county figure’s decline was in sync with the national and statewide trends, according to figures released by U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday.

Nationally, the number of new claims (formally known as initial claims) filed last week fell 2.4% to 787,000. Statewide, the volume of new claims was down 19.9% to 37,900.

The number of claims filed by already idled countians in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits also dropped, the local board’s data indicates.

The number of continued claims fell 2.9% to 10,100 in the week ended Dec. 19, the most recent period for which figures are available.

Despite the dip, the volume of continued claims stayed elevated, compared to this fall, when it briefly dropped below 7,000.

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