More On Pennsylvania's 'Tsunami of Jobs'

Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Julia Hearthway has hailed “a tsunami of jobs” in the state's Marcellus Shale. Indeed, growing from a small base of employment, mining and logging in Pennsylvania has increased by 67% since the beginning of 2010 (when employment began growing again after the official end of the recession in June 2009). Unfortunately, this tsunami of 15,600 jobs in mining and logging has been entirely offset by a tsunami of 21,000 jobs lost in the public sector.

Another weak point in the Pennsylvania economy has been construction where there has been essentially no growth in employment since 2010.

The figure below presents employment that is not seasonally adjusted for construction and two subsectors between January 2005 and September 2012. Since these data are not seasonally adjusted, I present them as 12-month moving averages of employment in construction and index the values to January 2005 to show trends since the collapse of the housing bubble. I explain here why I take 12-month moving averages of employment data that are not seasonally adjusted.

Heavy and Civil Engineering reflects, in part, road and bridge construction and repair. Employment in this sector has grown by 10% since 2010 partly as a result of Recovery Act-related construction spending. 

Building + Specialty represents employment in private-sector residential and non-residential construction. Employment in this sector kept falling through the middle of 2010 and since its trough is up about 2%.

Construction activity in both sectors has been on the decline in the last year. With overall construction employment well below pre-recession levels and borrowing costs at near historic lows, now would be the ideal time for Pennsylvania to issue bonds to begin a concerted effort to repair the 6,877 structurally deficient bridges in the commonwealth.

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