Western Pennsylvania unemployment rate dips to 7.4 percent
The unemployment rate for the Pittsburgh region fell slightly in February as a surprising jump in construction jobs during what is generally the industry's off-season helped provide support to the local economy and a strengthening jobs market.
The jobless rate for the seven-county area dipped to 7.4 percent from 7.5 percent in January, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported Tuesday. The rate was 6.8 percent in February 2012.
There were 94,000 people in the region without a job in February, according to a separate survey of area households, down from 95,500 the month earlier. The data are not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.
“There's still a lot of people out of work,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Develoment.
Construction jobs typically dwindle in cold-weather months, but a higher-than-usual 1,100 jobs were added around the region. Economists said the growth was fueled by a combination of public infrastructure work, major commercial projects and a spurt in home building.
“Construction was surprising on the upside. We normally see construction job growth in the months of May and June,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group.
Rankin cited ongoing reconstruction of Route 28 and building of The Tower at PNC Plaza, a 33-story project begun last spring and slated for completion in mid-2015, as examples of work that is providing construction employment.
“Those are high-paying jobs,” Rankin said. “That means incomes which will help support things like more retail spending.”
The Pittsburgh region covers Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
The decline in the area's unemployment rate mirrors what's happening on a state and national level as the economy shakes off a recession. Statewide unemployment declined to 8.1 percent in February from 8.2 percent in January. The national jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent.
New jobs in construction also stem from home building in the region, said Bill McNamara, CEO of United Lender Services Corp. Based in Robinson, the firm provides title and settlement services to home mortgage lenders.
“Our focus is national, but a good amount of our work is in Western Pennsylvania. And that volume continues to grow at a pretty steady pace,” McNamara said.
As a result, United Lender Services plans to hire about 150 people locally in the next 12 months to do residential title and settlement work, he said. The hires will roughly double the firm's employment.
Those kinds of professional and technical services jobs grew by 1,300 in February, the state report said. Hiring at many colleges and universities after the holiday break added 3,200 jobs.
Offsetting such gains, however, was the loss of 2,100 jobs in retail, which trimmed employment after the holiday shopping season. Leisure and hospitality employment fell by 2,300.
Different sectors' job gains and losses left the Pittsburgh region with a net increase of 1,300 jobs in February over January.
According to the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, Western Pennsylvania employers have about 26,000 job openings. Yablonsky said most of those positions pay between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.
Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chevron settles fatal well fire lawsuit for $5 million
- Task force to plot ways of easing gas glut in Pennsylvania via pipelines
- IRS cybersecurity breach touches lives of homebuyers, others
- Pitt study suggests health law attracting young to balance insurers’ risks
- UPMC offering buyouts to 3,500 employees in cost-cutting move
- Tesla home battery at $7K, partnered with rooftop solar system, may help reduce power bills
- Many Americans have no retirement savings, Fed survey shows
- Shoppers pay premium for organic chicken
- Automakers do U-turn on infotainment systems
- Apple finds bug that causes iPhones to crash
- Stocks bounce back from losses on reassurance from Greece