Unemployment in the Lehigh Valley fell last month to its lowest level since January, largely because of an increase in health care, education and administrative jobs, according to data to be released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
The Valley's unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percent to 4.2 percent in October, lower than the rates for Pennsylvania and the nation. The region's jobless rate has been the same or better than that for Pennsylvania every month this year. The state rate was 4.3 percent last month, and the national rate was 4.4 percent.
Only 17,200 people were counted as unemployed in October. That's the second-lowest reading in five years. Only January of this year had fewer people, 17,000, counted as jobless.
''These are healthy numbers,'' said state labor market analyst Joe Merlina. ''There is something spectacular happening in Allentown.''
Economists consider an unemployment rate of 5 percent to be full employment. That means anybody who wants a job can get one.
In October, the Lehigh Valley was home to 346,400 jobs. That's 5,800 more than the year before. The region has added jobs over the past year at nearly twice the rate of Pennsylvania. In the past five years, the Valley has added 20,800 jobs. That's an increase of 6.4 percent, or about triple the state's rate.
The job sectors that have seen the biggest gains over the past year include professional and business services, up 2,200 jobs; administrative and waste services, up 1,400 jobs; and education and health services, also up 1,400.