Jan. 4, 2014
The unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh region dropped in November, but only because people continued to leave the workforce, the state said on Friday.
The seasonally adjusted rate slipped to 6.6 percent, down 0.1 of a percentage point — as 1,700 people left the workforce. The number of unemployed residents in the seven-county region declined, as well — by 700 — resulting in a lower jobless rate for the eighth time in the past 12 months, the state said.
“The numbers are undeniable. The numbers in the seven-county area have continued to decline,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group. “Job growth in the greater Pittsburgh region petered out earlier (last) year.”
Economic growth in the region improved in 2010 and 2011 as the recession receded, then it stalled, he said.
“With a flat recovery, you tend to get people falling out of the workforce,” Rankin said.
The jobless rate is determined by a monthly survey of residents in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
The total workforce fell to 1.255 million, compared to 1.263 million a year ago. Residential employment in the region fell by 1,100 to 1.172 million.
State officials aren't sure why the workforce is shrinking, said Ismael Fertenbaugh, an analyst at the Department of Labor and Industry. He said it could be anything from retirements to workers who have given up looking for a new job. “The labor force is down, which isn't a good thing,” he said.
In 2014, improvement in the region's economy is “very much dependent” on the national economy maintaining its recent growth pattern, Rankin said. “If the economy can continue 3 percent or more growth ... that would translate into jobs in Pittsburgh.”
The November jobless rate for Pennsylvania was 7.3 percent. The national rate was 7.0 percent.
A separate survey of employers in the region showed an increase of 2,600 non-farm jobs during November, according to state data. The jobs figures from employers is not seasonally adjusted.
Retailers predictably added 5,100 jobs in November for the holiday season. But that was about 2,100 fewer jobs than the sector had in November 2012, according to state data.
The leisure and hospitality sector had the biggest losses, dropping 3,500 workers from the prior month. Within that sector, food service — especially full-service restaurants — lost about 1,000 jobs from October.
The construction sector shed about 1,600 jobs month-to-month, but that is common as winter approaches, Fertenbaugh said.
Administrative services and ambulatory health care were the biggest job areas to grow compared to last year. Both shed more than 400 jobs between October and November, but they're still up by more than 2,000 workers compared to November 2012, according to state data.