Total employment in York County reaches its highest level since at least 1990, according to state Department of Labor and Industry records.

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York County's unemployment rate dropped for the fifth straight month in December, and labor experts expect skilled workers to begin capitalizing on the increase in competition among employers.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the York-Hanover Metropolitan Statistical Area dropped to 3.9 percent, according state Department of Labor and Industry statistics. The last time the rate was this low was November 2007, according to Jeff Newman, an analyst with the state Department of Labor and Industry.

That figure dropped from 4.2 percent in November and 4.6 percent in December 2014. Darrell Auterson, who recently left his post as president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance, previously said that the low unemployment rate meant that the county was dealing with a tight labor market.

Ellie Lamison, senior manager for workforce development at the alliance, said news like this can be spun positively or negatively.

"We're near full employment, that's exciting for the community," she said. "Employees now can start looking at compensation packages as employers compete for skilled workers. Salaries, insurance, retirement packages, all that comes into play in this market."

York County residents received an average annual pay of $43,611 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The county's total employment for the month increased to 222,500, which Newman said is the highest it has been since at least 1990, which is as far as their records go back.

Underemployment and part-time workers could be contributing to those numbers, but Newman said the rise is still significant. York's employment was 221,300 in November and 218,500 in December 2014.

Lamison said the low unemployment numbers represent an opportunity for county residents who may be unemployed. She cautioned that when levels get this low, local companies may look outside the county more for employees.

Also significant in the department's report is that transportation, warehousing and utilities jobs reached an all-time county high at 11,300. Specific industry statistics are not seasonally adjusted, so delivery companies hiring drivers for increased demand over the holidays likely contributed to that figure, Newman said.

Lamison said York County's proximity to major markets makes those jobs a natural growth sector. York County workers in those industries received an average annual pay of $57,355 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

—Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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