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The signs of an economy opening back up can be seen in windows, on billboards, and job search websites. But an abundance of open positions does not mean there is an abundance of workers. 

The national unemployment rate rose to 6.1% in April and, in Pennsylvania, the rate is 7.3%. But Lycoming County is higher than both the state and national averages, recording a 7.8% unemployment rate in March. 

In April 2020, the county reached a record high unemployment rate of 16%, spiking due to the economic shutdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the economy rebounds and customers begin coming back, businesses are finding that replenishing their employee ranks is difficult. 

“Nearly all employers with open positions are affected by the shortage of workers,” said Rachel Ulmer, site administrator with PA CareerLink. “We are finding that businesses across all industries are struggling — from manufacturing to hospitality to health care and construction.”

Job-seekers market

It’s a job-seekers market, Ulmer said, adding there are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the most discussed reason is the current level of unemployment benefits, which include an extra $300 per week in addition to the standard unemployment rate. 

The extra $300 check is set to expire Sept. 4, 2021.  

But staffing shortages may not only be due to unemployment benefits, Ulmer added. Remote learning days for schools and unpredictable child care make it hard for parents to plan a reliable work schedule. 

She added that other potential workers may not want to return to work for health concerns. 

“There is such a wide variety of well-paying positions available, job seekers have the ability to choose almost any industry they are interested in and find a new position,” Ulmer said.

Local impact

The staffing shortages have had a direct impact on the hospitality industry. A number of area restaurants have been forced to close their doors early, or...

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