Region's jobless rate continues to climb

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The Pittsburgh region's unemployment rate followed the state trend by ticking up one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.4 percent for July, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported this morning.

The region also lost jobs. The state reported that the seasonally adjusted number fell by 1,800 jobs in the seven counties that make up the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Through much of last year, as the recession was deepening for the rest of the country, the state's unemployment rate stayed fairly consistently a full percentage point below the national rate while the Pittsburgh MSA experienced unemployment levels about a percentage point below the state rate.

Robert Dye, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services, cautioned against putting too much stock in one month of data, but blamed the lagging nationwide recovery for Pittsburgh's lack of job growth.

"The longer we are in this weak job recovery, the more Pittsburgh becomes a little more average," he said.

"Some of the uncertainties that have plagued employers nationwide have plagued employers in Pittsburgh."

The national unemployment rate held steady at 9.5 percent in July while the state rate rose to 9.3 percent.

"The reason the national unemployment rate is holding steady is because 1.2 million people have left the labor market over the past few months," Mr. Dye said. "That's not a statement on job creation; that's a statement about the definition of the labor force."

The gains the Pittsburgh region made earlier this year also appear to have evaporated as industries lost ground - manufacturing (down 300 jobs for the month), financial activities (down 300 jobs), leisure and hospitality (down 300 jobs) and government employment (down 11,000 jobs) - though employment reported by occupational categories is not seasonally adjusted.

The bulk of the losses in government jobs was 10,500 for local government educational services, which includes public schools that were on summer recess. In a year-over-year comparison, the local educational services lost just 300 jobs.

The state reported the raw number of nonfarm jobs in the region to be 1,120,600 for July, 15,300 fewer jobs than the area had in June, but 4,700 more jobs than in July 2009.

Construction was a bright spot, adding 900 jobs during the month, a gain of 1,500 jobs more than there were in July 2009. But Mr. Dye cautioned that the data was not seasonally adjusted and that Pittsburgh's major construction projects had been winding down.

Manufacturing, which was an area that Gov. Ed Rendell touted as leading the state out of the recession just a few months ago, lost 300 jobs in July and was down 2,800 jobs over July of last year.

"You definitely see a slower rebound in the manufacturing area. Pittsburgh area manufacturers have not added jobs as they have nationally," Mr. Dye said. "Manufacturing is clearly where we are lagging."

The sector for the mining and logging industries, which would include all of the Marcellus Shale gas work, lost 100 jobs last month and was up just 300 jobs over last year.


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


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