The unemployment rate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area plunged four-tenths of a percentage point in October to 6.3 percent, the lowest rate in more than six years.

The drop offered some encouragement. Unlike other recent declines in local joblessness, this slide was due entirely to people finding jobs, rather than a shrinking labor force, prompting hope that the changing dynamic signals better economic prospects for Northeast Pennsylvania.

The labor force was unchanged on a seasonally adjusted basis in October, but the ranks of the employed grew by 800, with those newly found jobs driving down the number of unemployed, according to data from state Department of Labor & Industry.

Still, the region continued its multi-year streak of having the highest unemployment among the state’s 14 metro areas. Only Johnstown, at 6.1 percent unemployment, joined Scranton with joblessness more than 6 percent. Joblessness was down on the county level, with Luzerne at 6.1 percent, Lackawanna at 5.7 percent, and Wyoming at 5.9 percent.

The numbers are down considerably from the post recession high mark of 9.6 percent hit from February through June of 2010, and again in July through September of 2012.

The improvement could be a sign that the local economy has turned a corner, said Satyajit Ghosh, Ph.D., professor of economics at the University of Scranton.

“This is good news for the holidays and something to rejoice about,” he said. “Over the last several months, we have seen the unemployment rate decline not because of job creation, but because of labor force declines. So this report is very welcome.”

But he cautioned that the final analysis will come over the next few months. November and December, when retail ramps up for the holiday season, the job situation typically improves. If the region maintain labor force levels and sheds few jobs in the traditionally slow periods of January and February, it will suggest a welcome trend, Dr. Ghosh said.

October establishment data, the tally of jobs in the metro area, increased 1,100 for the month, but was down 1,600 year-over-year. The biggest sector declines in the prior 12 months were in retail, 1,900 jobs, and business and professional services, which lost 1,600. The only bright spot was mining and construction, which employed 1,000 more.

Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce president Robert Durkin was encouraged by the narrowing gap between state and local unemployment.

“We’ve been cautiously encouraged for a while,” Mr. Durkin said. “We’re not satisfied and continue to work hard.”

He thinks the drastic decline in the labor force, often attributed to frustrated workers “giving up” looking for a job, could reflect older workers ducking out of labor force. Over the year, the labor force fell 6,500.

Changes come slowly to Northeast Pennsylvania, Mr. Durkin said, because of its diverse industry base.

November unemployment will be released Dec. 30.

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