The Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Tuesday the final unemployment numbers for 2017, and Centre County posted the lowest rate it’s seen in a decade.
The state is broken down into 20 statistical areas and Centre County lies within the State College metropolitan statistical area, which finished the year with a 3.3 percent unemployment rate for December. The rate is second to the Gettysburg metropolitan area, which finished with a 3.2 unemployment percent rate.
The 2017 yearly average for the State College area is 3.7 percent, which marks the first time since 2007 that the area has dipped below four percent. In 2007, the area posted a 3.5 percent unemployment rate.
Pennsylvania finished 2017 with a 4.7 percent rate, which is slightly higher than the national rate of 4.4 percent.
The 3.3 percent rate for the State College area in December is almost one full percentage point lower than when the year started and Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins said he expects the numbers to hold.
As part of his duties on the board, Higgins focuses on economic development. He said the obvious driver in the area is Penn State, but much of the strength of the job market can be attributed to startup companies.
Centre County has averaged 150 new startup companies per year over the last two years, one third of which are in the technology field, according to Higgins.
One of the companies is KCF Technologies of State College. The company develops and commercializes technological solutions aimed at improving the efficiency of machinery. The company hired 40 employees last year and expects to hire an additional 40 by August, Higgins said.
“This is just an example in our area of non-Penn State affiliated companies producing a large number of jobs,” Higgins said.
Another source of job creation comes from the area’s 13 business incubators, he said.
“I don’t think there’s another medium-sized county in the nation that has as many resources for businesses to get a start,” Higgins said. “I expect the momentum to continue and I think the numbers can stay low for a long time.”