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Joblessness in W.Pa. rises to 7.1%, but more at work

| Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The Pittsburgh region reached near-record employment in June, but its unemployment rate increased to 7.1 percent anyway, the state said in a report issued Tuesday.

The seven-county jobless rate was 0.3 of a percentage point higher than May's rate of 6.8 percent — the largest increase since February 2010, according to the state Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, based on a monthly survey of residents.

At the same time, employers in the region added 12,600 jobs in June, and 15,400 since June 2011. That brought the Pittsburgh region's job count to 1,160,800, the highest level since February 2001, when it was a record 1,163,300, said the agency, citing a survey of employers.

“Employment went up, but the labor force went up even faster,” said Matthew Marlin, an economics professor at Duquesne University. The labor force, composed of those working or looking for work, jumped by 9,000 since May, and by 24,200 since June 2011.

“The report tells me more people are optimistic and went out to look for a job,” Marlin said. “A number of discouraged workers apparently became encouraged workers.”

The region had 89,200 unemployed residents last month, which was 4,600 more than in May.

The seven-county region consists of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

“Some of the people entering the labor market are not finding jobs, so they show up on the unemployed side,” said Kurt Rankin, economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

“In other markets, the labor force is shrinking because people are not looking for jobs as actively,” Rankin said.

Service-related jobs jumped to a record-high 1,025,500 last month, based on the employer survey, eclipsing the previous record of 1,023,800 from December 2011. The sector added 9,200 jobs since May, and 16,700 jobs since June 2011. The bulk of the gains came from the professional and financial services segments, along with leisure and hospitality.

Manufacturing jobs stood at 89,600 last month, or 300 more than in May. While a modest increase, it sustained the recovery in that sector, which has added an average of 100 jobs a month this year, Rankin said.

Construction employment grew to 51,200. That was 2,900 more than in May.

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

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