Pennsylvania unemployment numbers continue dip

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Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percentage point from 6.8 percent in December to 6.4 percent in January, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported Friday.

It was the third straight month of declining unemployment in the commonwealth as employers added 500 net jobs to the state payrolls. The numbers are seasonally adjusted to take out seasonal spikes and dips.

The state employment report generally runs about a month behind the national jobs numbers. A national jobs report released Friday provided statistics for February.

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell for two reasons.

On a positive note, the total number of people working grew by 15,000 in January. That marked the first time that employment in the state has broken 6 million since January 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession, when Pennsylvania was losing about 25,000 jobs a month.

On the flip side, the size of the labor force -- which is a combination of the number of people working and those looking for work -- fell by 8,000, indicating that some people gave up looking for jobs.

While the labor force statistics are determined by a survey of households, the number of jobs is determined by a survey of employers.

The results of the most recent employer survey was a mixed bag. Construction added 7.500 jobs in January and employment in that sector was up by 4,600 over January 2013. Leisure and hospitality added 4,300 jobs during the month and was up 16,900 over the year. Education and health services was up by 4,000 jobs for the month and by 6,700 jobs for the year.

Trade transportation and utilities, which includes retail stores that generally shed jobs in January, cut more than usual. That sector was down by 11,800 jobs from December and 1,300 jobs as compared to January 2013. Professional and business services -- which is a sector that includes lawyers, architects and engineers -- cut 2,500 jobs in January over December, but employment was up 12,200 over last year.

Government continued to see job losses in January, with employment down by 1,200 jobs from December before. The government sector shed 8,700 jobs in the last year.

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


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