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Pennsylvania's unemployment rate, payrolls set new records

Published April 22. 2019 08:33AM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's unemployment rate dropped in March to the lowest rate on record, as payrolls hit a new record high and the number of people unemployed shrank to its lowest level since 2000, the state Department of Labor and Industry said.

Pennsylvania, one of the nation's slowest-growing state economies in recent decades, saw its unemployment rate drop by one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.9% last month, the department said. Pennsylvania's rate had twice previously hit 4% since 1976, which is as far back as the state says its records go.
The improvements in Pennsylvania are generally tracking national trends, although economists identified weaknesses in Pennsylvania's wage growth.
The national unemployment rate was 3.8% in March. That puts it around the middle of the pack among states.
Pennsylvania's economy has lagged other states' in recent decades because of its relatively slow-growing and older population.
"But comparing Pennsylvania against itself is where these numbers allow you to say that Pennsylvania is doing well," said Kurt Rankin, a Pittsburgh-based vice president and economist for The PNC Financial Services Group.
Pennsylvania's low unemployment rate is sustainable for the time being, economists said. But, with the labor force growing, Rankin said it is possible the shrinking unemployment rate could stall if more people are entering the workforce than can be absorbed.
A survey of households found Pennsylvania's civilian labor force grew by 5,000 in March, as the number of people employed rose by 10,000 to a new record high of more than 6.2 million. The number of unemployed shrank by 6,000 to 255,000, its lowest level since 2000.
Still, the underemployment rate — a measure of people who have part-time work but want full-time work — remains elevated at 8.4%, above where it was in 2007, at 7.7%, before the recession began, said Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg.
"There's clearly still some weakness," Price said.
A separate survey of employers showed Pennsylvania's seasonally adjusted nonfarm payrolls rose by 4,000 in March, to a record high above 6 million. March's figures are preliminary and could change.
Economists singled out various sectors, including the state's transportation and utilities sector, as having shown strength.
There is also anecdotal evidence that businesses can't find workers with the skill sets they are seeking, such as in construction and manufacturing, and that could force employers to pay more, Rankin said.
"What that could translate into is something that Pennsylvania could use, which is a stronger wage growth trend," Rankin said.
Wage growth, he said, has lagged that of a couple comparable states, Ohio and Michigan, in the past couple years.
Price said median wage growth, adjusting for inflation, rose 3% last year, with hourly wages for the typical Pennsylvania worker rising from $18.64 per hour to $19.27 per hour.
That's what should be expected with a low unemployment rate, Price said.
But, Price said, Pennsylvania's median wage growth has been sluggish over the decade-long expansion, rising just 2% since 2009, with much of that growth concentrated among the highest-wage earners.

Thank you President Trump. Even though you underwent a 675 day hoax investigation and people with Trump Derangement Syndrome opposing you all along, your policies did this. MAGA! Trump 2020.
Ok I’ll bite. The trump tax bill raised the effective tax rate on most who previously itemized, an intentional tactic to punish “blue states” with state income tax. The economy of the state was already trending well prior to trump’s election and prior to any implementation of policies.

Although I agree that lowering corporate taxes is a stimulator or business growth, The huge deficits that are occurring as a result will catch up to us. To date trump has no solution to the deficit nor a plan to deal with they SS shortfalls or healthcare.
I will take this as a partial concession on your part Joe. Of course, Social Security and healthcare has been out of control for years. Consequently, you will agree, I am sure, that President Trump has no fault in those areas. As far as the deficit, President Obama increased that more than all other Presidents combined. Remember the Stimulus? Give President Trump a chance equal to what you gave President Obama. The economy of the “state”, as you say, and the nation was down, reaching a “new normal that we should expect in a global economy” as President Obama indicated. Just electing a businessman was a boost prior to any implementation of policies. Kindly provide sources of the wonderful economy President Obama created.
Obama deflection. Bravo

Trump is making the deficit worse, and not responding to the healthcare or social security issues. It is not an answer to say Obama did it too.
Come on Joe, you misunderstand. You stated, “the economy of state was already trending well prior to Trump’s election...” Is that referring to President Obama? Bravo to you. Eleven states are receiving higher tax returns even though taxes have been lowered. How is this possible, you ask? People are spending more money that they now have available. Wouldn’t you be the same way? Wouldn’t you buy a new grill, or car, or ? with some extra disposable income through tax relief? Did you hide your head in the sand when President Obama severely increased the deficit? Again, the Social Security and healthcare issues have been out of control for many years. If Liberals would give President Trump a fair chance maybe he could respond to those items and more. Instead, needless investigations that waste Millions of dollars and a “resist philosophy” that wastes valuable time take away valuable assets to fix things.
The economy is far more complicated than that, the president has very little control of it honestly. Again, stating that we should give trump a pass on the deficit and other issues because Obama didn’t fix it is really odd.....I thought the whole point was that trump was better than Obama?!? Guess not
Come on Joe. The economy IS far more complicated. After the anti business climate of President Obama, the stock market went up just on the news that a pro business President was in town. No one ever gave Trump a pass on the deficit, although his short tenure in office, and his forced defensive posture from political attacks takes away some progress. President Obama had eight years. Trump IS better than Obama. Obama was a disaster. Open your eyes...if you want to see. Give Trump an equal chance.

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