By Kaylee Lindenmuth | email@example.com
SHENANDOAH - According to statistics from the Census Bureau, the economy in Schuylkill County and many of its communities is on the rise, but, by the numbers, Shenandoah doesn't seem to be included.
The bureau released their 2014-2018 American Community Survey 5-year estimate data. That data, compared with the 2010-2014 ACS 5-year estimate, showed a $4,170 median income increase for Schuylkill County, $45,020 to $49,190, but a $2,612 decrease for Shenandoah, $27,188 to $24,576.
Additionally, the poverty rate countywide decreased from 13.4 to 12.7, while Shenandoah's increased from 33.5% to 41.4%.
Mahanoy, Ashland on the rise
Other northern Schuylkill population centers fell in line with the county statistically.
Mahanoy City's median income increased from $27,576 to $29,337, an increase of $1,791, and Ashland's increased from $34,153 to $36,750, a $2,597 difference.
The poverty rate in Ashland also fell, from 18.3% to 17.9%, while Mahanoy's, however, increased from 29% to 32.1%.
Education levels rising across the board
The percentage of people 25-years-old or older with a high school diploma or bachelors degree increased in Shenandoah and Schuylkill County, while the same percentages fell in Mahanoy City and Ashland.
According to the estimates, in the 2014-2018 survey, 80.3% of Shenandoah residents 25+ had a high school diploma, and 11% had a bachelor's degree. In the 2010-2014 survey, though, 74% had a diploma and 5.5% had a bachelor's degree respectively.
Countywide, the percentage of 25+ residents with a diploma increased from 87.1 to 88.6, and with a bachelor's degree from 14.9% to 16.2%.
In Ashland, the percentage of 25+ high school grads fell from 88.4% to 81.3%, and those of the same age with a bachelor's degree from 13.3% to 10%. In Mahanoy City, the decreases were from 83.1% to 81.5% and 11.5% to 6.9% respectively.
Most people drive alone, half an hour away, to work
According to the survey, most area residents are commuting an average of about 24 minutes to work each day, if they work.
In Shenandoah, the amount of people 16-years-old or older working decreased from 39.7% to 36.4%, and the vast majority of them -- 71.7% -- drove alone an average of 23.7 minutes to work. The amount of people in town carpooling, 15.9%, is well above the county percentage of 9.3%.
7.5% of Shenandoah residents walk to work, also well above the county percentage of 2.7%.
In Mahanoy City and Ashland, most people are commuting a similar distance to work each day as well -- 22.5 minutes and 28.3 minutes respectively -- and most are driving alone to work. 78.4% of the Mahanoy City workforce drives to work alone, while 77% of the Ashland workforce does the same.
Percentage of children in poverty fell, but remains high
Between the two estimates, the percentage of Shenandoah children who live in poverty fell slightly, but it still remains above the 50% mark.
In the 2010-2014 estimate, the ACS showed 55.3% of Shenandoah children as living in poverty, though the 2014-2018 estimate showed 53.5%.
The percentages are much higher than the countywide equivalents -- 20% in 2010-2014 and 17.3% in 2014-2018.
Top 3 industries for Shenandoah workers: Retail, manufacturing, education/health care
Most employed persons age 16 and up in Shenandoah worked in three industries: retail, manufacturing, and education/health care.
Retail held the highest percentage at 20.6%, while manufacturing came second with 19.3%, and educational services, health care, and social assistance had 18.8%.
Possible solution: Bring jobs to town, or make existing jobs accessible
Currently, the largest concentrations of manufacturing jobs are miles away in the Humboldt and Highridge Industrial Parks, neither of which are connected via public transit directly from Shenandoah.
In fact, many of Schuylkill County's largest employers are miles away from any public transit route.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, four of the top 15 largest employers in the county are located in the Highridge Industrial Park, which isn't served by any public transit route. The sixth largest employer, Jeld-Wen in Ringtown, is also disconnected from public transit.
While most working area residents rely on driving themselves to work each day, public transit routes from the Shenandoah area to the jobs that exist could, and most likely would, help displaced workers without reliable transportation find steady work.
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