Economic forecast: Erie County job market to grow

ERIE, Pa. -- The U.S. economy has been growing for the past eight years, but Erie County has had difficulty, said experts Monday.

PNC Wealth Management held its 2017 Investment and Economic Briefing at the Bayfront Convention Center.

Although, Northwestern Pennsylvania’s manufacturing jobs have declined, they still remain 15% of the local jobs share, according to PNC’s “Northwest Pennsylvania Market Outlook” report. That percentage of manufacturing jobs is above the state average (nine percent) and the national average (eight percent).

Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, said, "I tell investors to try to divorce all of the chaos in Washington, the tweets, the scandals, from the economic fundamentals, which are really quite good."

Experts say job growth is soon expected in Erie County, as well; but it likely will not be from the manufacturing industry.

Stuart Hoffman, PNC senior economic advisor, said, "Erie will get back to adding jobs, mostly in the service sector. Not necessarily manufacturing, but in services, health care, education, financial services."

The U.S. economy has been growing at about two percent each year, but Northwestern Pennsylvania’s employ growth was negative in 2016, stagnant in 2017, and positioned for growth of less than one percent in 2018.

"So, we're looking for growth of around about 1,000 to 1,500 jobs in Erie County in each of the next couple of years,” said Hoffman.

Charles Bennett, a local economist, said, "They're going to be jobs in service areas and I think that's going to be a challenge for the community, because it'll have an effect on income."

One way to combat that challenge is to encourage people to seek higher education, said Erie City Council President Cas Kwitowski. 

He said, "We may get more jobs, they just may not be the same level of jobs we had in the past. So, I think looking forward, Erie is going to have to adjust a little bit."

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