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Jobless rate unchanged as Pennsylvanians gave up search for work

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Friday, July 18, 2014, 10:45 a.m.
 

The state's unemployment rate was unchanged last month as more people dropped out of the labor force.

The jobless rate was 5.6 percent in June, the same as in May, and employers added a meager 1,800 jobs, according to the Department of Labor & Industry's monthly labor market report on Friday.

The number of Pennsylvanians who reported they were unemployed fell by a seasonally adjusted 6,000 to 357,000, the report showed. But the civilian labor force declined by 28,000 people to 6,403,000.

The unemployment rate comes from a survey of households. People are not counted as unemployed if they are not actively looking for work.

“Employment is down, the labor force is down ... People have exited the labor force,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist with PNC Bank. “What's there is not encouraging.”

Pennsylvania was one of 33 states that experienced an increase in payrolls in June. Twenty-two states posted lower jobless rates.

A separate survey of employers in Pennsylvania showed a modest gain in jobs, with seasonally adjusted gains coming primarily from goods-producing industries.

Construction companies added 2,700 jobs in June. Manufacturers reported fewer jobs, and mining and logging companies were up slightly.

The service sector was mixed, with trade, transportation and utilities companies adding 5,300 jobs, offset by a loss of 5,500 positions at professional and business services companies.

Department officials cited a gain of 5,600 private-sector jobs, and Gov. Tom Corbett called the report “positive.”

“We have now created 184,000 new private sector jobs and have more people working in our private sector than at any other point in the history of the Commonwealth,” said Corbett, who is running for re-election.

Frank Gamrat, an economist with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Castle Shannon, said June's numbers were weak, but he added that the state's economy is on the right track.

On a year-over-year basis, employers have added more than 56,000 jobs in the state, he said, and hiring is up in nearly every sector of the economy. “I'm not too terribly worried about a month-to-month move,” he said.

The state numbers followed an especially strong national jobs report this month, in which the nation added 288,000 workers — beating analysts' expectations.

Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, cautioned that the state doesn't always follow on the heels of the national economy.

“You would hope that when the national numbers are good that the Pennsylvania numbers would also be good,” Price said. “It's not a stellar report, but I wouldn't raise an alarm bell about it.”

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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