Jobless rate falls in Pittsburgh region because some people stopped looking for work, state agency says

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Unemployment in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area fell from 6.6 percent in November to 6.3 percent in December as thousands of job seekers gave up looking for work, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reported Tuesday.

In December, the regional labor force, which numbered 1.25 million people, fell by 4,200. Most of the shrinkage came from the ranks of the unemployed because the number of people listed as jobless fell by 4,600, indicating that thousands gave up trying to get a job during the month while 400 found jobs.

It was the fifth straight month that the labor force contracted. Those numbers are seasonally adjusted to take out spikes and dips from employment trends.

Since January, the Pittsburgh-area labor force lost a total 15,500 workers, according to statistics compiled by the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg. During that same time, there were 17,300 fewer unemployed workers, with 1,800 more people reporting that got jobs. That translates to nearly 90 percent of the decline in the number of unemployed workers due to people dropping out of the workforce.

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For the month of December, the state Department of Labor and Industry also reported that the number of jobs in the region dipped to 1.183 million from 1.19 million. The raw number of jobs fell by 7,400 in the seven-county region made up of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Jobs typically are lost in December, so the seasonally adjusted number of jobs lost ended up at 1,800 jobs.

In a year-over-year comparison, the region had a net gain of 14,200 jobs in 2013.

Private sector employment was up by 15,500, while there was a loss of 1,300 government jobs. Most of the government jobs lost have been on the local level (900 jobs), including 200 jobs cut in public schools. In December, schools cut 600 jobs.

There were large job losses during the month in the construction industry (4,400), an area that tends to cut workers in the winter. Numbers on specific industries are not seasonally adjusted. But in a year-over-year comparison, construction employment was up by 200 jobs.

Manufacturing's total of 88,800 jobs was down 200 from November and 400 from December 2012.

Mining and logging, which includes jobs drilling into the Marcellus Shale, had 11,600 jobs in the region, which was 400 more than in November and 1,300 more than in December 2012.

Retailers added 1,800 jobs in December, but the sector had 1,900 jobs fewer than in December 2012.

Education and health services, which had been experiencing a boom that continued through the recession, cut 2,300 jobs in December, though the sector remained up by 3,000 jobs over the year before. The month's losses came mostly at colleges and universities, which cut 3,600 employees in December and 1,400 jobs over the year.

Ann Belser: or 412-263-1699.

First Published February 4, 2014 2:12 PM

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