Jobless rate in Western Pa. hits 7.3%

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Unemployment in the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area was 7.3 percent in August, according to figures released Monday by the state Department of Labor and Industry.

At first glance, that appeared to be a decline from the 7.4 percent unemployment rate originally reported for July, but July's unemployment rate was revised downward on Monday to 7.1 percent.

The unemployment rate is derived from a survey of households conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also took over the task of seasonally adjusting the rate to take out ordinary bumps in the statistics. Pennsylvania had been making the seasonal adjustments.

Mark Price, a labor economist for the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, said the household survey showed that employment is up over last year by 20,200 jobs, but the labor market, which is a combination of the number of people working and those who are looking for jobs, has also grown, therefore the unemployment rate has not gone down.

Mr. Price noted that since the end of the recession, the Pittsburgh region has experienced more growth in the labor market, as a percentage increase, than either the state or the nation as a whole.

PG graphic: Regional jobless rate at 7.3%
(Click image for larger version)

A second survey, which polls employers, showed a loss of 6,100 jobs in August from July. The August figure also is based off a revised July figure and would have shown a loss of 7,000 jobs if the July number had remained firm.

Mr. Price said there has been year-over-year growth in the number of jobs every year since the end of the recession in 2009, but the pace of that growth has slowed.

Private employers cut 4,600 jobs in August, though the number of jobs is still up 14,500 from August 2011.

Government saw a net decline of 1,500 jobs from July to August.

Public schools, which have employment totals that are normally lower in the summer, experienced a decline of 900 jobs in August, though that was still 200 jobs more than there were in August 2011. Local governments outside of the schools cut 700 jobs in August and employment by local governments is down by 1,100 jobs from August 2011.

In the sectors that produce goods, mining and logging added 100 jobs during the month, but construction lost jobs. Overall there was a net loss of 800 construction jobs during July. However, general construction jobs gained some ground while the specialty trades lost 1,200 jobs.

Manufacturing added 1,000 jobs with 900 of those in the manufacture of durable goods.

The region experienced a net loss of 4,900 private service sector jobs, including 1,400 in the wholesale trade and 1,300 in colleges and universities, which, while they tend to have lower employment in the summer, were 900 jobs shy of where they had been in August 2011.

General medical and surgical hospitals cut 300 jobs in August and were 500 jobs short of August 2011. Social assistance was also down by 200 jobs for the month and 700 jobs from last year.

region - state - employment

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


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