The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania kept dropping in May, falling for the 10th month in a row. A tenth of a percentage point drop brought the seasonally adjusted rate to 5.6 percent, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Labor and Industry.
That meant that for the last two months, the state’s jobless rate has been at its lowest level since September 2008, the point at which the nation’s financial markets began melting down. A year ago in May, state unemployment was 7.5 percent.
Nationally, unemployment sat at 6.3 percent this May.
At the state level, Rhode Island posted the highest unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, while North Dakota had the lowest at 2.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pennsylvania added 24,700 jobs in May, trailing only Texas in sheer number of job gains and pushing the Keystone State’s job total to 5.8 million — the highest level since 2008, according to state and federal labor officials. Most of the gains came from the private sector, which added 21,700 jobs compared to 3,000 for the public sector.
Over the past 12 months, total nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania are up 62,400, or 1.1 percent.
“This is encouraging, but I think we still have a long way to go,” said Natalie Sabadish, an analyst with Keystone Research Center, a nonprofit economic research group based in Harrisburg.
Ms. Sabadish said she’d like to see Pennsylvania put together a few more months of consistent job gains to prove that it is on a sustainable path. The state continues to rank in the bottom fifth of states as measured by percentage job growth over the past 12 months, she said.
The latest numbers from the state weren’t all upbeat.
In April, Pennsylvania’s civilian labor force had held steady — an indication of stability in the number of people working or looking for work — after a gain of 12,000 in March. But the picture changed in May: The number of Pennsylvanians employed or applying for jobs dropped by 12,000 to 6.43 million.
People can leave the workforce for a variety of reasons, such as retiring or going to school, but a factor cited by analysts in recent years has been workers becoming discouraged by the lack of available jobs.
The state reported a total of 363,000 people were unemployed last month, down from 368,000 in April. The ranks of the employed dropped by 6,000 to 6.07 million.
In May, sectors that showed by the biggest gains in Pennsylvania included leisure and hospitality, which added 6,800 jobs to employ 550,000, and education and health services, which added 5,900 jobs for a total of 1.17 million jobs. Those are private sector positions.
Governments in Pennsylvania added 3,000 jobs during the month to hit a total of 717,000. Still, the government sector is still down 4,500 jobs over the past 12 months and down 600 since January — mostly through education job cuts, said Ms. Sabadish.
The construction sector added 2,200 jobs in May to reach a total of 236,800 jobs. That sector is up 5 percent over the last 12 months, she said.
The state adjusts the numbers to factor out seasonal swings.
Brian Hyslop: email@example.com or 412-263-1936. First Published June 20, 2014 12:00 AM