Pennsylvania economy trudging along

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The Pennsylvania economy, which looked so healthy during the recession, has fallen further behind the rest of the country as the recovery has taken hold.

When the nation hit its highest unemployment rate of 10 percent in October 2009, the rate in Pennsylvania was 8.4 percent. But in January, when the national unemployment rate had fallen to 7.9 percent, Pennsylvania's rate was 8.2 percent.

The state's January unemployment rate, which was released Friday, rose three-tenths of a percentage point above the December rate of 7.9 percent, which was slightly above the national rate of 7.8 percent.

A year ago, when the national unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in January 2012, the state was doing better with a rate of 7.6 percent.

The raw numbers also are not encouraging. The number of people nationwide who were unemployed fell by 416,000 from January 2012 to January 2013 while the number of people who were unemployed in Pennsylvania rose by 47,000 in the same period. That is partly because Pennsylvania's civilian labor force grew at more than twice the rate of the rest of the nation, rising 1.8 percent in a year while the national labor force grew at an annual rate of 0.8 percent.

Pennsylvania employers added 5,200 jobs to their payrolls in January, bringing the overall hiring from January 2012 to 36,300 jobs.

Where economists were cheered Friday by the national report for February that noted the nation has added construction jobs for five consecutive months, the construction industry in Pennsylvania seemed to be in a contraction, down 2,200 jobs in January, which was 2,000 fewer jobs than in January 2012.

Education and health services, which is the largest employment category, added 6,700 jobs in the state in January and 20,600 jobs since January 2012.

Mining and logging, which includes jobs drilling in the Marcellus Shale, added 1,200 jobs in January but showed no job gains from a year ago.

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


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