Pennsylvania's unemployment rate dropped in April to 7.6 percent, matching its lowest level since the end of the Great Recession.
The rate last was at 7.6 percent in January, February and March 2012, but climbed back up to hit 8.2 percent in January 2013.
Unemployment is still a full 3 percentage points above the 4.6 percent rate of December 2007, which was the official start of the recession. In December 2007, the state had 292,000 people who were unemployed. Last month, 496,000 were out of work and looking for a job, 17,000 fewer than in March.
April saw the third-largest historical decline in the number of people who were unemployed, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry. In March, 20,000 fewer people were unemployed, while in July 1983, the number of unemployed people fell by 102,000.
July 1983 was in the midst of the steel industry collapse. That month the state unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, a huge drop from 12.5 percent in June 1983. The rate improved because 66,000 people gave up looking for work while 45,000 reported finding work.
April's numbers were significantly less dramatic and the situation was not quite as dire as in 1983, though there were still nearly half a million people out of work. Last month, the state's labor force fell by 3,000 workers, and 13,000 more people reported that they were working than in March.
While a survey of households determines the unemployment rate, a separate survey of employers, known as the establishment survey, shows how payrolls are holding up in the state.
In Pennsylvania, employers added a net of 6,700 jobs in April, a gain of 21,800 jobs since April 2012. Big increases were seen in professional and business services, which includes architectural and engineering firms, with 6,200 more jobs from March and 11,300 more jobs over the past 12 months.
Education and health services added 1,300 jobs in the month and 12,500 over the year, while leisure and hospitality added 3,200 jobs over the last month and 5,700 over the last year.
All of the goods-producing sectors lost jobs both month over month and year over year. Mining and logging, which includes drilling for shale gas, lost 800 jobs in April and 1,400 jobs since April 2012. Construction was down 3,200 jobs for the month and 1,200 for the year, and manufacturing was down 1,000 jobs in April and 600 for the year.
Pennsylvania's employment numbers would be higher, except that government employment fell by 1,600 jobs over the month and 8,400 over the last year.
Speculation that the sequester that took effect in March would have an extraordinary effect on Virginia and Maryland, where many federal government employees live, seems to have been overblown so far.
Automated federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, have reduced spending in numerous areas nationally. The across-the-board cuts were triggered as a result of ongoing budget battles in Washington, D.C.
Pennsylvania has lost 1,600 government jobs over the last two months and the District of Columbia has lost 2,400 jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meanwhile, Maryland experienced an increase in government payrolls of 1,800 jobs over the last two months and Virginia saw government payrolls dip by 1,000 in March but then rebound to the pre-sequester level in April.
Ann Belser: email@example.com or 412-263-1699.