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Pittsburgh area jobless rate falls, lowest since ’76

Joe Napsha
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The Pittsburgh area economy continued to improve in March when the unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.9% as the seven-county region’s economy added 3,100 more nonfarm jobs.

The Pittsburgh area unemployment rate dipped slightly to 3.9% in March, the lowest level since 1976, when the region’s steel industry still was vibrant.

The jobless rate, adjusted for seasonal factors, dropped 0.1 of a percentage point in March, and was down from 4.4% a year ago, according to the state’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis. That 4% rate reported in February, however, had been revised from the initial report of 3.6%. The revision was the result of the annual update of the unemployment data, said Lauren Riegel, the state’s industry and business analyst.

The Pittsburgh region’s unemployment rate was 3.1% in February 1970, when “the steel industry was remarkably strong,” said Christopher Briem, a regional economist with the University of Pittsburgh’s Urban and Regional Analysis Program.

But, Riegel said the state was using a different methodology in the early 1970s to determine the jobless rate. The unemployment rate had fallen to 4.1% in October 2018, Riegel said.

“The Pittsburgh region is seeing growth, but somewhat below the national average,” said Augustine “Gus” Faucher, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.

“The area is benefitting from the continued economic growth in the nation,” he added.

Faucher predicted the region “will continue to see solid growth the rest of the year, but below the national average.”

The drop in the jobless rate for the Pittsburgh region — Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties — mirrored that of the state’s unemployment rate, which decreased 0.1 of a percentage point to 3.9% in March, the state said. Among the seven counties in the region, Fayette had the highest unemployment rate at 4.9%, while Allegheny had 3.5%, and Westmoreland’s was the same as the region’s average rate at 3.9%.

There were 1.19 million nonfarm jobs in March, up 10,800 from a year ago, as adjusted for seasonal factors. There were 3,100 more workers in the region who found jobs in March for a total of 1.67 million, up 16,400 from a year ago.

The civilian labor force — those working or looking for work — rose to 1.21 million, up 10,400 from the same time a year ago, based on seasonal factors.

There were 46,900 people in the region on the unemployment rolls, about 1,000 fewer in March than February. That’s about 6,000 fewer unemployed people than a year ago.

The region’s manufacturing companies added 800 jobs in March, boosting the total to 84,300, but that is below the 86,000 manufacturing jobs of March 2018.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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