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State economy improved, jobless rate fell to 7.8% in November

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 12:42 p.m.

The number of unemployed Pennsylvania residents fell by 16,000 in November, the largest single month decline since 1983 and the second-largest drop on record, said a report on Friday.

“That 16,000 is a healthy number,” said labor economist Mark Price, of the Keystone Research Center, Harrisburg.

“It's a sign we're back on track,” he said. “This is a nice reversal back in the right direction after the number of unemployed had been rising over the summer.”

The jobless rate also fell sharply to 7.8 percent last month from 8.1 percent in October, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry report.

The economist said the only time that Pennsylvania logged a larger drop in unemployed people was in July 1983, when jobless ranks fell by about 100,000. That drop occurred because the implosion of Big Steel at the time led thousands of suddenly jobless people to leave Pennsylvania for states with better prospects, he said.

Total employment in November, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, stood at 5.75 million, which was the highest level in four years, or since November 2008. Employment is determined by a survey of state residents.

Private-sector jobs, determined by a survey of employers, increased by 7,200 last month, driven primarily by gains in leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and manufacturing.

“The public sector shed 5,300 jobs, but the private sector added 7,200, which is a good number,” Price said.

“But I don't think this will be repeated in December,” he said.

“The Pennsylvania economy is slowly recovering, and we are adding jobs, but not at a pace where we'd sustain November's really good number.”

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or tolson@tribweb.com.

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