Erie-region employers have hired more than 2,600 new workers since September, edging closer to pre-recession levels, according to the latest Erie Leading Index, which was released June 19.
That increase – the fifth in six months – suggests the local economy is stronger than many thought.
“Firms are hiring more employees, rather than asking existing employees to work more hours, which is a typical thing to happen at this stage of the recovery,” said Jim Kurre, an associate professor of economics at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, and director of the Economic Research Institute of Erie. He compiles the Erie Leading Index, which is sponsored in part by Marquette Savings Bank, using eight key economic indicators, including the U.S. interest rate, the real money supply, the TS Freight Index and the S&P 500.
The new index, using data through March, should ease fears of a double-dip recession, Kurre said. But the news isn’t all good: The March unemployment rate for Erie was 7.2 percent, and the added jobs still leave the local market 3,000 workers short of the pre-recession peak.
“The good news is we’re headed in the right direction,” Kurre said. “But we still have a ways to go.”