Unemployment for the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan area hit 6.7 percent in July, the first time it has been under 6.8 percent since February 2009, according to the state's Department of Labor and Industry.
A year later, in February 2010, the jobless rate hit a recession high of 8.4 percent.
It has taken 31/2 years for the rate, which is a crude measure of the economic health of the region, to come near the level of February 2009, when the unemployment rate was 6.5 percent.
In May 2007, six months before the official start of the Great Recession, unemployment was at 4.2 percent, as it had been for five months.
Rates are seasonally adjusted to take out regularly occurring spikes, allowing one month to be compared to another.
"The top line numbers for the region are headed in the right direction with the labor force and employment increasing and the number of unemployed down," said Mark Price, an economist for the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg.
"With a healthy unemployment rate for the region being in the range of 4.5 percent, the current unemployment rate of 6.7 percent means the region still has a way to go before we can pronounce the labor market is back to full health."
In the last year, the region's employers have added 17,800 jobs.
Many of those jobs tend to be low-wage work, such as the 5,700 jobs that were added in leisure and hospitality in the last year, which included 1,700 jobs at bars and restaurants. The leisure and hospitality sector added 800 jobs in just the last month, though bars and restaurants cut 700 jobs in July.
The education and health services sector lost 3,200 jobs in July, which is common in the summer because of summer breaks in the education sector.
Last month, educational services cut 1,900 jobs while health care and social assistance employers cut 1,300 jobs. Overall growth in the sector left it still with 2,300 more jobs than in July 2012.
Manufacturing lost 200 jobs in the month, though that sector is still up by 300 over last July. For the year, the number of jobs in iron, steel and alloy manufacturing mills was down by 200.
Ann Belser: email@example.com or 412-263-1699. First Published August 27, 2013 10:15 AM