Little Good News for PA Jobs in September and October

One of the many lingering side effects of the shutdown of the federal government in October was a delay in the release of Pennsylvania jobs data for September. Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us our first look at the September jobs numbers along with preliminary numbers for October. (The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has yet to release its own summary.)

The job numbers were all around disappointing.

First, total nonfarm payrolls fell by 7,400 jobs between August and September, and there was no change in employment from September to October.

The news on resident employment (collected from a separate survey of households) was also negative, falling by 4,500 jobs in September and by another 20,200 in October. In fact, this survey, which can be volatile, has registered a loss of more than 50,000 jobs in Pennsylvania since July.

The bottom line: neither survey of employment had good news for Pennsylvania in September and October. As the figure above makes clear, job growth has slowed over time. Unless the job numbers improve in November, December, and January, Pennsylvania may be on track to add fewer jobs this year than in 2012, making 2013 the worst since the end of the recession.

Looking at employment growth by sector since August, employment gains in construction (+4,400), manufacturing (+2,000), professional & business services (+7,300), and trade, transportation and utilities (+2,600) were offset by losses in education and health services (-7,300), leisure and hospitality (-4,600), and government (-9,300).

Counter to what we might have expected with the federal government shutdown in October, the losses in the public sector were not concentrated in federal employment (-600) but in local government (-9,700).

The source of all of those local government job losses is schools, which usually ramp up employment in September and October for the new school year and did so again this year but just added back fewer employees than in the recent past.

Better news came from the survey of households, which registered a slight decline in the unemployment rate from 7.7% in August to 7.6% in September to 7.5% in October.

The jobless rate fell as the number of unemployed declined by 5,200 in September and by 11,000 in October. This is the same survey that found employment fell by 4,500 in September and by 20,200 in October, but recorded even bigger declines in the labor force (-9,700 in September and -31,200 in October). Given the employment and labor force changes, the very slight decline in the unemployment rate is a bittersweet development.

Those of you who follow the job numbers closely will remember that Pennsylvania registered healthy increases in the labor force in 2012, which the Corbett administration attributed to an improvement in the business climate. Labor force growth peaked in January of this year, and as of October is down by 81,200. Whatever the source of the growth in the labor force in 2012, it clearly cannot be sustained with job growth remaining so weak.

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