Pa. unemployment has been trending upward since May
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The unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area rose to 7.5 percent in January, the highest it has been in more than two years.
Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry on Tuesday released the regional employment report, which showed unemployment in the Pittsburgh region has been trending upward since May, when the rate was 6.7 percent. The numbers are seasonally adjusted.
Non-seasonally adjusted unemployment was much worse at 8.6 percent.
The last time the unemployment rate hit 7.5 percent was in December 2010.
This region, which includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties, lost 31,900 jobs in January. Overall, the seven-county area gained 7,000 jobs since January 2012, but that wasn't enough to keep up with the growth of the labor force.
"Unemployment is rising because employment growth in Pittsburgh is lagging behind labor force growth, thus driving up the unemployment rate," Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center, said. "As a result, we have more and more people chasing a limited number of job openings."
He said the rise in unemployment locally mirrors the state's increasing unemployment rate, which has been going up since March 2012. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in January. National unemployment hit 7.9 percent that month.
Statewide, the percentage of people unemployed long term has been growing, Mr. Price said. In the fourth quarter of 2011, 33 percent of unemployed workers had been jobless for longer than six months and thus classified as long-term unemployed. In the last quarter of 2012, long-term unemployed accounted for 39 percent of the jobless workers.
While the loss of retail jobs is normal in January, this year the region hemorrhaged jobs. Retailers cut 6,900 jobs, or a 5 percent reduction of the workforce that waited on holiday shoppers in December.
The construction industry cut 6,700 jobs, more than 12 percent of the construction workforce. Administrative and support services cut 2,800 jobs, or 5 percent of the administrative workers in the region.
Private educational services, including private colleges and universities, cut 4 percent of their workforce or 2,300 jobs in January. Public schools run by local governments cut 3,000 jobs in January, a decrease of 5.6 percent of the workforce since December. In addition to the public schools, government cut jobs at all levels.
Government employers chopped 5,900 workers or 4.8 percent of all government payrolls in January: 200 of those workers were employed by the federal government, 2,400 worked for the state and 300 worked for municipalities, but not in the schools.
Hotels, bars and restaurants cut 2,300 workers in January, a decrease of 2.5 percent of that workforce.
First Published March 20, 2013 12:00 am