Region's unemployment rate declines for 13th consecutive month

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Despite an increase in seasonal employment, the Pittsburgh region still had 5,400 fewer jobs in March than it had at the same time a year ago, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported Tuesday.

Still, the unemployment rate has fallen slightly every month since May 2013, when it was 6.9 percent.

In March, the rate dipped to 5.8 percent in the seven-county region, a tenth of a percentage point lower than February's 5.9 percent.

The Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area is made up of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The unemployment rate and labor force numbers are seasonally adjusted, but the number of jobs is not because of the small sample size.

The past three months have offered signs of hope.

PG graphic: Regional jobless rate 5.8%
(Click image for larger version)

For all of 2013, the unemployment rate declined, in large part, because of workers dropping out of the labor force. But February and March were marked by increases in the size of the labor force and by declining unemployment. The regional labor force at 1.14 million workers, remains 11,900 workers short of the December 2012 level.

The number of jobs increased in March by 7,400 from the previous month. Like the ranks of the labor force, the total number of jobs is still smaller than it had been. Two years ago, the region had counted 8,300 more jobs in March than it did this year.

Seasonal hiring revved up in construction, which added 1,800 jobs in March; manufacturing, which added 400 jobs; and retail, which added 700 jobs. But those three categories were still short of the number of workers they had last year.

Education and health care sectors, which had been adding jobs throughout the Great Recession and hiring when other industries were shedding jobs, are now reversing course. Colleges and universities cut 1,000 people from their payrolls from March 2013 to March 2014, and hospitals cut 1,400.

Government jobs were down by 1,900 over the year. Though public schools did add 700 people over the month, they were still short 1,400 jobs from March 2013.


Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699 First Published April 29, 2014 1:03 PM

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