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Pennsylvania jobless rate continues to decline, but remains above national average

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for August was 10.3%, according to information released Friday by the state’s Department of Labor and Industry. That rate declined by 2.2% from July, when the state had the fifth-worst rate in the country. Pennsylvania’s rate for August is better than nine other states, but it’s still above the 8.4% national average reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Sarah DeSantis, press secretary for the Department of Labor and Industry, told The Center Square the state is seeing things move in the right direction. "Strong public policy that protects workers and assists businesses with stability during the ongoing pandemic will help Pennsylvania continue to build on this job growth momentum," DeSantis said.
"This is why Gov. [Tom] Wolf has advocated for additional worker protections, support for out-of-work Pennsylvanians and businesses assistance, such as the federal RESTAURANTS Act. We also need to continue to build consumer confidence as a key to seeing continued growth in all sectors. This includes ensuring Pennsylvanians feel comfortable visiting stores, restaurants, and other businesses by encouraging everyone to wear masks, keep their distance, and follow other COVID-19 safety protocols."
The COVID-19 crisis forced many businesses to shut down or reduce operations six months ago. However, Labor and Industry officials said Friday the state has recovered 52.4% of the jobs lost in March and April. Across the state, the unemployment count fell by 144,000 people and the number of people employed rose by 86,000.
The department noted the largest increase occurred in transportation and utilities, which saw an increase of 19,600 jobs. Jobs in the education and health services sector grew by 12,000. In the three goods producing sectors, mining and logging saw a 3.8%, or 900 job, increase from July and construction jobs grew by 4,100, or 1.7%. Manufacturing jobs, though, dropped by 1,700 jobs, or 0.3% of the workforce.
Still, while the data shows improvement, the number of people working is still significantly lower than it was a year ago. The 10.3% unemployment rate is still more than double what it was in August 2019. BLS statistics show the state has still lost about 500,000 jobs, an 8.2% drop, compared to August 2019. Of the 11 goods producing and service-related industry sectors, only one – financial services – reported a job increase in the year-to-year comparison. That’s a 0.4%, or 1,400 jobs, increase.
The leisure and hospitality sector remains the industry hardest hit by the pandemic. The industry, which includes such businesses as hotels, restaurants and casinos, has lost 163,000 jobs, a 28.2% drop, from August 2019. Pennsylvania was among 41 states that saw unemployment decline month-to-month, and was one of 14 states to see a rate drop by two points or more, according to BLS.

By Steve Bittenbender | The Center Square

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