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Pa. jobless rate remains at a 4-year low

| Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 3:54 p.m.

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate hovered at a four-year low of 7.5 percent in July, but job creation remained sluggish, signaling a halting recovery from the depths of the Great Recession.

Private-sector employers added 4,000 jobs last month over June, said a report on Friday from the state Department of Labor & Industry, but those gains were offset by a loss of 5,700 government jobs.

Pennsylvania Labor Secretary Julia Hearthway characterized July's results as “a great month.”

Economists, such as Mark Price at the Keystone Research Center, Harrisburg, disagreed.

“A great month in Pennsylvania is somewhere around 6,000 to 7,000 new jobs, which is a range that would quickly get us back to a lower, more acceptable unemployment rate and a healthy economy,” said Price.

He contrasted July's increase with the 19,100 jobs added in June.

The unemployment report signals Pennsylvania's economy is “chugging along, much like the national economy,” Price said. U.S. unemployment was 7.4 percent in July.

The jobless rate in Pennsylvania has not been beneath 7.5 percent since the 7.4 percent posted in March 2009.

“An unemployment rate of 7.5 percent is exceptionally and abnormally high. If the economy was healthier, I'd expect a rate of somewhere between 4 percent and 5 percent,” said Price. “It will take a while to get back to anything close to those numbers.”

The number of unemployed Pennsylvanians last month, 492,000, was 2,000 more than in June, a difference Price called ‘very small.” July's jobless was 31,000 fewer than in July 2012.

Pennsylvania jobs were added last month in leisure and hospitality, construction and financial activities, but declined in trade and transportation, manufacturing and some services.

Price expects construction employment will pick up because the demand and prices for housing have been rising. But he does not expect the state's manufacturing jobs, which have dipped the last couple of months, to accelerate much any time soon.

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

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