The York-Hanover area's unemployment rate is slowly moving toward pre-recession levels.

In December, the local rate fell to 6.6 percent—the lowest rate in nearly six years.

But a state analyst cautioned against getting too excited.

"Not every unemployment increase is bad and not every decrease is good," said Ismael Fertenbaugh, analyst with the state Department of Labor & Industry.

Both the labor force and the number of unemployed decreased in December.

"That could be because people retired or stopped looking for work," he said.

In keeping with the usual seasonal trends in December, 500 construction jobs were lost, 400 retail jobs were gained and 200 leisure and hospitality jobs were added.

Throughout the year 400 jobs were added in the York-Hanover area, and recreation hubs Ski Roundtop and Heritage Hills may have helped, Fertenbaugh said.

"Colder weather allowed winter attractions to open earlier this year – at the beginning of December, rather than in January like previous years," he said.

The growth helped drop the local unemployment rate from 7.8 percent in December 2012 to 6.6 percent at the end of last year.

That's still a long way from the 3.9 percent unemployment rate the York-Hanover area posted in December 2007 before the Great Recession was in full swing.

"Service jobs are up 4,300 since when the Great Recession started, but nonfarm jobs are still down 4,700 since then," Fertenbaugh said.


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But nobody should read into that, he said.

"I think we have to ask, 'What is the new normal?' given that we went through a recession not too long ago," Fertenbaugh said.

In December, normal was abnormal.

Every county in Pennsylvania saw a significant reduction in its unemployment rate at the end of the year.

"The state and all counties saw a decreased rate. No county was flat or increased. That has never happened before," Fertenbaugh said.

However, he said analysts thought the decreases might be a little less once they receive benchmark data which will be reflected in the January unemployment numbers, which will be released in March.

"It might not be as significant, but we'll probably still see decreases," Fertenbaugh said.

The York-Hanover unemployment rate in December was lower than that of the state and country.

From November to December, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell five-tenths to 6.8 percent, and the U.S. unemployment rate decreased three-tenths to 6.7 percent.

—Reach Candy Woodall at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.