Pittsburgh area unemployment rate falls to 5.8 percent on labor market decline

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On Tuesday, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pittsburgh fell from 6 percent in January to 5.8 percent in February. It was the lowest the unemployment rate has been since November 2008.

But that rate is coming down for what economists say is the wrong reason: People who are unemployed have given up looking for work.

While 4,000 more people reported they had jobs in February than the previous month, 22,900 fewer reported they were unemployed. That means 18.900 people left the labor force.

Another way of looking at that number is that people in the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area who were unemployed in February 2013 were nearly five times more likely to drop out of the labor force than they were to be working this February.

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

Using seasonally adjusted data meant to take out the wrinkles of holiday and vacation seasons, the labor force hit a high in July of 1,268,400 workers. That was also the highest month for employment in the region.

Since July, the number of people who have jobs has fallen by 10,200 while the number who are unemployed has fallen by 13,800. That leaves a total of 24,000 people who aren't working and have quit looking.

The Department of Labor and Industry does not seasonally adjust reports on the jobs data collected from local employers because the sample size is too small. That means the raw data do not take into account seasonal ebbs and flows. In a year-over-year comparison, the region's employers had cut 5,200 jobs as compared to February 2013.

Manufacturing in the Pittsburgh area was down by 2,800 jobs over the year; full-service restaurants cut 2,500 jobs; administrative and support services, which includes temporary jobs, cut 2,400 jobs; and a total of 2,300 jobs were cut from all levels of government, including 1,400 people who used to work in the public schools.

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Ann Belser can be reached at abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699. First Published April 1, 2014 10:30 AM

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