Morning Must Reads: Job Growth in 2011 and More Layoffs, Higher Property Taxes in 2012

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry released data on employment and unemployment in December. Compared to the summer months, the top line numbers were good, with unemployment falling three-tenths of one percent to 7.6% (U.S. rate is 8.5%).

Nonfarm jobs were up 6,500, which is a pretty good number (we need to average 8,000 new jobs a month to get back to full employment in three years). Service-sector job growth in December was atrocious; the sector added just 300 jobs. Most of the month’s job growth was in durable goods, with manufacturing adding 2,600 jobs, construction adding 3,000 and mining adding another 600.

Those 3,000 construction jobs don't represent a sudden resurgence of the construction industry. As most of you are happily aware, December was quite warm; this meant construction activity in the month was above historical averages which shows up as job growth in the final numbers. The actual trend in construction employment is at best no or very slow growth.

The bottom line is that in the last 12 months, Pennsylvania added 59,200 jobs. That's fewer jobs than were added from December 2009 to December 2010 (63,900). The primary reason Pennsylvania added fewer jobs in 2011 than it did in 2010 is the loss of 19,800 jobs in the public sector.

So what do we have to look forward to in 2012? More teacher layoffs, declines in the quality of public education and rising property taxes. 

Facing a fiscal crisis of previously unimagined proportions — it must cut $61 million by June and isn't sure how to get there — the Philadelphia School District's governing body on Thursday tore up its leadership structure and named a "chief recovery officer" to get the battered organization through the next six months.

 

Residents will see a 17.5 percent property tax increase under the borough’s 2012 budget, which was passed Thursday night.

Now for some good news for construction and manufacturing employment in the midstate! ArcelorMittal is going to make an investment in its Steelton plant that will extend the plant's life by keeping it cost efficient. And as we have said time and time again, now is the best possible time to undertake large construction projects since the construction labor market is very weak.

ArcelorMittal, which owns the steel plant along the Susquehanna River in Steelton, will begin work this month on a multi-million dollar furnace upgrade that will take 18 months to install, Steelton’s mayor, Tom Acri said.

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