Pittsburgh-area unemployment rate fell in March

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Spring employment kicked into gear in March in Pittsburgh and the surrounding counties.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.3 percent in March from 7.5 in February, according to numbers released Tuesday by the state Department of Labor and Industry.

The unemployment rate is exactly where it had been stalled for the last six months of 2012.

Without seasonal adjustment, the unemployment rate, which is based on a survey of households, took a huge drop from 7.8 percent in February to 7.1 percent in March. That matched another survey, also not seasonally-adjusted, that showed that the region gained 11,100 jobs between February and March.

While that sounds like a lot of jobs, Harold Miller, president of Future Strategies LLC in Pittsburgh, noted that of the top 40 regions in the country, Pittsburgh was fifth from the bottom in terms of annual job creation. In a year-over-year comparison, the region gained just 2,400 jobs.

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

The Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties, had a lower unemployment rate in March than the state at 7.9 percent or the nation at 7.6 percent.

Job gains in the region as reported by a survey of employers were spread across a diverse range of industries.

Construction, which usually picks up in March, added 2,600 jobs from February, with 1,300 of those in specialty trades. In March, there were 500 more people working in construction than in March 2012.

Professional and business services added 2,700 jobs from February, with 1,200 jobs added in professional and technical services, which includes architects, engineers and researchers.

Jobs in professional and technical services have increased by 5,300 since last year.

Administrative and waste services, which are a subset of professional and business services, added 1,500 jobs during the month, but was still 1,800 jobs short of March 2012.

Social assistance agencies added 300 jobs in March and was up by 400 jobs from last year. Leisure and hospitality added 3,600 jobs, but was 1,300 jobs short of March 2013.

Manufacturing, which added 400 jobs in March, has not recovered from job losses of previous months; the sector was still down by 400 jobs from March 2013.

Iron and steel mills and ferroalloy manufacturing were down 200 jobs from March 2013, although the labor forces in those mills held steady overall during the month.

Retail trade cut 900 jobs in the region in March and was down 1,900 from March 2013.

Private colleges and universities in the region cut 400 jobs during the month and were down by the same amount from March 2012.

Government was up by 300 jobs from February, but still down by 2,500 jobs from last year.

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Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699. First Published April 30, 2013 10:15 AM


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