Pittsburgh area jobless numbers continue fall

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The unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area fell for November to 6.6 percent from the 6.7 percent rate in October, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reported Friday.

While the unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, the number of jobs in the seven-county region, which is not seasonally adjusted, was up from October to November by 2,600 jobs, which is consistent with the increase of seasonal jobs in retail and transportation.

PG graphic: Regional jobless rate
(Click image for larger version)

The Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area is made up of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

A survey of employers in the seven counties found that the number of jobs in November had risen by 17,400 from November 2012, including the 2,600 jobs gained since October, without seasonal adjustment.

The number of jobs, when seasonally adjusted, fell by 300.

Mark Price, a labor economist in Harrisburg with the Keystone Research Center, said that even with this fairly flat report, job growth in the seven-county Pittsburgh region is outpacing the rest of the state. The Pittsburgh metropolitan area's job count grew by 1.5 percent over the year while the rest of the state grew at 0.6 percent.

"Overall, the region remains far ahead of much of the rest of the state in the long, slow race to get back to the point where labor markets are tight enough that we start to see some healthier wage and income growth in the region," he said.

The retail trade added 5,100 jobs from October to November -- a large number, but perhaps a sign that stores were expecting a slower holiday season than last year because there were 2,100 fewer retail jobs this season than in November 2012. Job counts for individual sectors are not seasonally adjusted.

Employers who hire truck drivers, couriers, messengers and warehouse workers added 300 workers in the seven-county region from October to November, which was 800 more than November 2012.

As is usually the case in November, there were losses in construction with 1,600 fewer construction jobs in November than in October. Overall, the sector was still up by 700 jobs from November 2012.

Manufacturing added 100 jobs in the region for the month but was down by 900 jobs for the year. Mining and logging, which includes jobs drilling for natural gas, added 100 jobs during the month and 1,000 for the year. Leisure and hospitality lost 3,500 jobs from October to November, including 1,000 at bars and restaurants, which were down by 1,900 jobs since November 2012. The sector overall was up year over year by 1,300 jobs.

Hospitals added 100 jobs in November, but were down by 400 jobs since November 2012. Ambulatory health care services, which includes doctors office and outpatient facilities, added 3,100 jobs between November 2012 and November 2013, but cut 200 jobs since October.

Government has slowed the number of jobs lost, though all segments of government were down from last year by a total of 2,000 workers.

Public schools added 700 jobs in November, but the schools were still down 600 employees year over year. Municipal governments cut 400 jobs in November, which places the number of local government employees down by 600 since November 2012.

The unemployment rate, which is seasonally adjusted to remove seasonal spikes and dips, was down from October's rate because the region's labor force contracted by 1,700 workers who left the labor force, not because of workers reporting higher employment.

While the jobs totals are determined by a survey of businesses, the unemployment rate is factored from the results of a telephone survey to households. In that survey, the number of people who had jobs fell by 1,100 workers and the number of people who were out of work but looking for a job fell by 700 workers.

While unemployment in the region was below the 7.3 percent of November 2012, much of the drop can be attributed to workers who have stopped looking for work. Over the past 12 months, 1,600 more people are working, while 8,700 fewer people report they are unemployed. That is because the regional labor market over the past 12 months lost 7,100 workers.

Over the seven-county region, only Beaver County -- which had an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent both in November 2012 and 2013 -- saw growth in its labor force over the year. In each of the six other counties, which showed year-over-year declines in unemployment, the improvement was -- at least in part -- caused by a shrinking labor force.

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.


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