Area jobless rate falls for ninth month in a row
The Pittsburgh region extended its run of lower unemployment by posting a 6.7 percent jobless rate in July, with gains in fields that pay good wages deflecting concerns from economists that the recovery in the job market is still anemic.
The jobless rate was an improvement from 6.8 percent in June and much healthier than the 7.3 percent in July 2012, said a report from the state Department of Labor and Industry on Tuesday. Employers added 3,300 jobs, including ones that pay well.
“These are not strong new-jobs numbers, but this pace of growth is healthy for Pittsburgh because it's coming in the right sectors,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group.
Still, the employment rate in the Pittsburgh area indicated that the local job market was doing better than the state and national level. Pennsylvania's unemployment rate in July was unchanged at 7.5 percent and the United States rate, although declining, stood at 7.4 percent.
Construction trades added 1,200 jobs last month, which was the industry's sixth consecutive month of added employment. The sector added 2,900 jobs in June and July combined, the best June-July gains in three years.
“We've got plenty of construction sites around Pittsburgh to keep that going,” said Rankin, noting construction Downtown and on area highways. “We've got orange cones everywhere, which means high-paying jobs.”
Finance and insurance businesses, which tend to include jobs that pay well, added 1,700 jobs last month.
Manufacturing slipped by 200 jobs, “mirroring what we see on the national level,” Rankin said.
Transportation and warehousing jobs dropped by 2,300 because of lower shipping volumes to businesses elsewhere in the United States, which has experienced a “relatively weak” economy so far this year, said the economist.
The number of unemployed people in the region fell by 900, which is “not a dramatic number, but moving in the right direction,” Rankin said.
The seven-county jobless rate, which has fallen for the sixth month in a row, was Western Pennsylvania's lowest since February 2009, when it stood at 6.5 percent.
The metro area consists of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
“The Pittsburgh economy is clearly one of the better performers in the state in terms of private-sector job growth,” said economist Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, Castle Shannon.
The 3,300 jobs added in July, which are adjusted to account for seasonal factors, was the highest month-over-month job creation of the 14 metro areas tracked by the government. Next-highest was Reading, with 1,700 additional jobs, then Lancaster, with 900.
The region's labor force — people with a job or actively looking for one — increased by 3,400 in July and by 12,900 over the previous 12 months, a pace Haulk called, “pretty steady and pretty healthy.” It underscored that people here were becoming more confident about their chances of finding employment and weren't giving up on their search.
Thomas Olson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.