Pennsylvania's jobless rate drops to 7.4%

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Pennsylvania's unemployment rate dropped from 7.9 percent in 2012 to 7.4 percent in 2013, the lowest level in five years and a level in line with the national unemployment rate.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the statewide annual figure Friday.

The data showed Pennsylvania may be easing out of the mire of high unemployment. In 2008, the state's annual unemployment rate started heading up, hitting 5.3 percent vs. 4.4 percent in 2007. Since then it has remained stubbornly at 7.9 percent, except in 2010 when the rate rose to 8.4 percent.

Last year's decline in the unemployment rate of one-half of a percentage point was deemed to be statistically significant by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Another measure that improved, but not enough to be a significant change, was the employment-to-population ratio. It was 58.6 percent in 2012 as compared to 58.8 percent in 2013. In other words, nearly 60 percent of everyone over 16 had a job.

While the news in the latest report is neither dramatic nor exciting, it does show movement in the right direction, said Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg.

The overall trajectory of the year was a good one in the month-to-month reports, too. In January 2013, the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent and it sank to 6.9 percent by December of that year.

Pennsylvania's performance was right in the middle of its immediate neighbors.

New Jersey and New York had higher unemployment with 8.2 percent and 7.7 percent unemployment rates, respectively.

Ohio and Pennsylvania both had 7.4 percent unemployment.

The state's neighbors to the south all had lower rates, with West Virginia at 6.5 percent, Maryland with 6.6 percent and Delaware with 6.7 percent.

Ann Belser: or 412-263-1699.

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