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Pittsburgh-area jobless rate edges down to 7.2%

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 10:20 a.m.

The number of unemployed residents of the Pittsburgh region fell by 2,000 in November, the largest one-month decline since May 1999, according to a state report released on Thursday.

The jobless rate in the seven-county region decreased to 7.2 percent, down from 7.3 percent in October, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry. The rate was 7.1 percent in November 2011.

Economists welcomed the news but were not overly impressed with the development.

“This report is really just a sideways move of the Pittsburgh-area economy,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist with PNC Financial Services Group. “The one-tenth of a point decline in unemployment is not a huge move.”

About 90,900 people were unemployed in November, on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to a survey of area residents. About 92,900 were jobless in October, and 87,700 in November 2011.

Rankin noted that the number of unemployed swelled over the year, but that “on the positive side, the number of employed workers is up sharply.” Area employment rose by 8,300 in November from November 2011, to 1,168,500.

Frank Gamrat, an economist with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Castle Shannon, said he viewed the employment reports “cautiously” because results from the government's household survey were more bullish on the economy than results from a separate survey of employers.

“There seems to be more confidence among consumers than employers,” Gamrat said. “I'd rather have more confidence showing among employers, where you have actual payrolls.”

According to the employer survey, whose results are not seasonally adjusted, manufacturing lost 300 jobs since October, and construction lost 400. But retail added 4,700 jobs over the month because of the Christmas shopping season.

“Manufacturing was doing better earlier in the recovery,” Rankin said. “But it has not been doing well in Pittsburgh over the past year.”

The state's unemployment rate in November was 7.8 percent, down from 8.1 percent in October. The national rate of 7.7 percent compared with 7.9 percent in October.

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

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