Pittsburgh-area unemployment falls to 5.3 percent in January
March 15, 2017 1:49 PM
Unemployment in the Pittsburgh area fell to 5.4 percent in January.
By Daniel Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pittsburgh region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percent to 5.3 percent in January, as people dropped out of the labor force when employers cut jobs during the month, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry’s monthly data released on Wednesday.
The unemployment rate in southwestern Pennsylvania shifted downward — in one of the largest recent monthly declines — primarily because people who were employed or looking for work in December dropped out of the labor force, according to the report.
There were nearly 10,000 fewer people counted as part of the labor force in January compared with the previous month, the report showed.
Compared with January 2016, when the unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent, more people had lost their jobs and joined the ranks of the unemployed, pushing up the state’s unemployment rate.
Government surveys count people as unemployed when they take specific and recent actions to look for a job.
Meanwhile, employers in southwestern Pennsylvania had 4,500 more positions in January compared with the year before — a job growth of about 0.4 percent — according to statistics not seasonally adjusted for the usual gains and losses that occur at certain times of the year.
Job growth in the service-providing sectors led the way, with the education and health services gaining 4,500 positions over the year, a 2 percent job growth. Leisure and hospitality, which includes full-service restaurants and hotels, recorded 4,000 more jobs over the year, or about 4 percent of its workforce.
The professional and business services sector was up by 1,900 positions, growing its workforce by 1 percent.
On the other hand, the goods-producing sector cut jobs. The mining and logging industry offered 21 percent fewer positions compared to a year earlier, construction dipped by 5 percent, and manufacturing fell by 4 percent.
The Pittsburgh metro area’s jobless rate, which encompasses Allegheny and six surrounding counties, ranked it 13th out of 18 metro areas in the state in January. It compared with a statewide January unemployment rate of 5.2 percent. It sits well above January’s U.S. rate of 4.8 percent.
County unemployment rates in the region ranged from a low of 4.7 percent in Butler and Allegheny counties to a high of 7.1 percent in Fayette County.
January’s report sharply reverses a trend seen throughout much of the last year.
The labor market significantly tightened in 2016, with the unemployment rate rising nearly a full percentage point as roughly 12,000 people who had given up looking for work begin to put in resumes, according to state data.
It has posed a challenge to local workforce officials as they try to match the skills of the unemployed with a new generation of jobs.
It’s unclear whether figures in January — during which seasonal workers hired for the holiday shopping season were released — will throw off the longer-term trend. Economists typically measure workforce changes over several months at a time.
The latest data are tentative and will be revised for next month’s region report. The state is scheduled to release February data on the Pittsburgh region on April 4.
Daniel Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.
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