Pennsylvania Unemployment Rate Drops for December 2009

The latest release from the State Department of Labor & Industry shows a rise in the Pennsylvania Unemployment Rate to it’s highest rate in more than ten years. Although the jobless rate is still below the national average of 10% the state has the fewest number of jobs available since 1999. Here is what Ann Belser of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had to say on the matter:

Pennsylvania continued to lose jobs in December as the unemployment rate edged closer to the national rate, according to the state employment report that could, at best, be seen as better than it could have been.

The state’s unemployment rate climbed to 8.9 percent in December from 8.5 percent in November, a significant jump during a month when the national unemployment rate remained flat at 10 percent.

“The pace of job loss is better than it was in the first quarter of last year,” said Mark Price, an economist with the Keystone Research Center.

He said that if the state wanted to get back to full employment in two years, which is where it was two years ago, employers would have to add 12,000 jobs a month, something that has never been done.

“It’s a pretty grim, deep hole that we’re in,” he said.

If the economy does add jobs, economists do not expect it to be at a rate fast enough to reduce unemployment nationally for at least nine months.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that nationwide unemployment will peak at 10.7 percent in the third quarter of this year while Pennsylvania will continue to narrow the gap between the state and national rates as the state rate peaks around 10.1 percent.

Mr. Price said the rates would continue to climb because when the economy starts to add jobs, people who have dropped out of the labor force after being unable to find work will start looking for jobs again.

In Pennsylvania, while the survey of payroll jobs showed that the state lost 8,000 jobs, the household survey showed that there were 37,000 fewer people who were employed, with 19,000 people dropping out of the labor force in December. If those people had not dropped out, the state’s unemployment rate would be 10 percent.

The Current Population Survey, which measures unemployment, is based on a survey of households. People are determined to be unemployed if they do not have a job but have looked for one in the past month.

The payroll survey, which is based on information from employers, showed that in December the state continued to lose goods-producing jobs, albeit not as many as in previous months, with 2,600 construction jobs lost, 1,100 manufacturing jobs lost and 200 jobs in mining and logging lost. Employment in both construction and manufacturing was down by 9.1 percent in December from December 2008.

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The sector that gained the most jobs in sheer numbers last month was professional and business services, which includes temporary office workers. That sector added 4,700 jobs in the state.

Information services also added jobs, with a 1 percent increase (the largest percentage gain in any sector last month) adding a total of 1,000 jobs. Still, the information services sector was down by 5,300 jobs over the year.

Sources: Article by Ann Belser of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10022/1030168-407.stm

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