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Unemployment rate in Pittsburgh region inches to 7.3 percent

| Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Pittsburgh region's unemployment rate rose by one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent in April, as the number of jobless workers reached a nearly 23-year high, the state said Monday.

The seven-county region's jobless rate for April compared with a rate of 7.2 percent in March and was 2.6 percentage points above April 2008. There were 88,900 people unemployed in April, up 32,200 from a year ago, when the jobless rate was 4.7 percent.

The region includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The jobless figures are based on a monthly government survey of people who live in the region.

"April actually looks improved from the last few months and, in both Allegheny and Beaver counties, we actually had unemployment rate declines, the first drops since last September," said Lauren Nimal, analyst for the Department of Labor & Industry's Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.

Allegheny County's employment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point, to 6.5 percent from 6.6 percent in March, while Beaver County's rate fell to 7.9 percent from 8.2 percent. Westmoreland County's jobless rate rose in April to 8.1 percent from 7.7 percent in March.

"Allegheny County is doing better because the county and the city have a higher percentage of higher education and health care-related jobs," said Harold D. Miller, president of Downtown consulting firm Future Strategies LLC.

The region's jobless rate remains well below both Pennsylvania's 7.8 percent, and the nation, at 8.9 percent.

A separate survey of employers showed that manufacturing jobs in the region during April dropped by nearly 8,000, definitely not a good sign, Miller said. "Because those manufacturing jobs generally are high-paying, that will cause a ripple effect through the economy," he said.

Manufacturing jobs fell to a record low of 90,900, according to state data going back to 1990. Over the year, goods producers shed 11,600 jobs with losses in construction and manufacturing, the state said.

"What surprised me about this report was that health care and education continued to add jobs, year-over-year," said Jake Haulk, an economist and president of the Allegheny Institute of Public Policy think-tank in Castle Shannon.

State figures show that the region added 4,600 health care- and education-related services from one year ago.

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