State's jobless rate rises to 8.9%

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Pennsylvania's unemployment rate rose slightly to hit 8.9 percent in February.

The new rate, announced Thursday, stayed below the national average. But while the national rate held steady at 9.7 percent, the state's ticked up by one-tenth of 1 percentage point.

Pennsylvania lost 16,000 jobs in February, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry. The state's total work force is 6.45 million.

Jobs are counted by contacting employers across the state and extrapolating the results. The unemployment rate is based on a survey of households.

The biggest job losses were in the sector known as health and education services, otherwise known as "eds and meds." It is the sector that has been holding the region aloft and hiring workers as other sectors have fallen. Last month eds and meds lost 7,800 jobs, though the sector still had 6,200 more jobs than it did in February 2009.

Overall, the state has lost 141,100 jobs in the past 12 months, or 2.5 percent of all the jobs statewide.

One good sign in the report was that manufacturing, which had been one of the sectors suffering major job losses throughout the recession, added 1,600 jobs in February, the most people hired in manufacturing in the last three years. There is still a lot of ground to gain. The sector is down 48,200 jobs, or 8 percent, from February 2009.

Construction workers continued to lose jobs, as the industry shed 3,300 workers last month to bring the sector down by 26,600 jobs from a year ago, or 11.1 percent.


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


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