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Pa. jobless rate declines as fewer look for work

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 2:21 p.m.

The state's unemployment rate improved in April, but economists said Pennsylvania's economy remains weak.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate dipped to 7.6 percent last month, down three-tenths of a percentage point from 7.9 percent in March, according to a monthly employment report released on Friday.

But the decline has been accompanied by three-month contraction in the size of the labor force, an indication that unemployed workers may be giving up their search for jobs.

“That's a negative,” said Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Bank. “It's fallen for three straight months. Fewer people are looking for work.”

Meanwhile, employers added 7,600 jobs in April. Seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs totaled 5.753 million last month, up from 5.746 million in March.

The service sector, primarily professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, gained 11,700 jobs. But the goods-producing sector, including mining and logging, construction and manufacturing, showed a decline of 5,000 jobs.

“That's usually worrisome because that's where your good salaries are,” said Frank Gamrat, economist for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, referring to goods-producing jobs.

“We're still slowly plodding along,” he said. “It's not quite growing the way we would like it to grow.”

While professional and business services jobs typically pay well, many jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry are low-wage, he said.

The jobs numbers come from a survey of employers. The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of households.

The household survey showed 6 million Pennsylvanians were employed last month, up 13,000 from March. The number of unemployed declined by 17,000 to 496,000 in April. The civilian workforce fell by 3,000 to 6.5 million.

“Growth is still weak, but it is growth — and that's a positive,” Faucher said.

The national unemployment rate in April was 7.5 percent, down from 7.6 percent in March.

“We do have year-over-year job growth, but it is quite weak and lagging behind the U.S.,” Faucher said.

Across the country, solid hiring helped push down unemployment rates in 40 states last month, the most since November.

Unemployment is declining in many states because the housing industry is adding jobs again. Rates in other states have declined because many of the unemployed residents have stopped looking for work.

The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively seeking jobs.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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