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Jobless Rate at Record Low in PA, Researchers Say

Analyst: Positive trend indicates workers are gaining more power in labor market

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service
The Tube City Almanac
May 22, 2024
Posted in: State & Region

(Source: Keystone Research Center)

Although polls show that Pennsylvanians are concerned about the economy, research indicates that the unemployment rate statewide is at a record-low number, and better even than the rate nationally.

In April, the state’s jobless rate stayed at 3.4 percent, an all-time low in Pennsylvania, better than the national rate of 3.9 percent.

Maisum Murtaza, research associate at the Keystone Research Center, said the positive trend has been ongoing for months, with the rate hovering between 3.2 and 3.4 percent over the past year.

He saod the job market is recovering from the COVID pandemic and workers are starting to gain a bit more power in the labor market.

“A low unemployment rate that persists like that gives workers more levers in the job market individually and together as well as creating more buying power,” Murtaza said. “We’ve also seen, in conjunction with the low persistent unemployment rates (over the) last 12 months, real wages have started to go up.”

Last week, the Economic Policy Institute documented that average inflation-adjusted wages for U.S. workers have increased each month for 12 consecutive months.

Founded in 1995, the Keystone Research Center is a non-profit organization focused on labor, wages and labor union issues.

Murtaza said that inflation has started to come back under control and the persistence of the effect is helping the labor market recover. The number of non-farm jobs rose to a record high of more than 6 million — an increase of 2,600 jobs over March, and the ninth consecutive monthly increase.

Murtaza reported Pennsylvania added 81,000 jobs to its overall employment over the last 12 months, with education and health services leading the way.

“Over the last 12 months, that industry has gained over 58,000 jobs,” Murtaza said. The leisure and hospitality industries are still recovering, he said, “because that was probably the industry hit hardest during the COVID years.”

Murtaza added government employment is in third place in terms of the highest percentage growth in employment over the last 12 months.

Pennsylvania also is part of a national trend of historically low unemployment rates for Black workers, although unemployment among African-Americans and people of color did tick upwards slightly. But Murtaza said the uptick is likely a temporary fluctuation during an overall positive trend.

Danielle M. Smith is a producer for Public News Service, where this story first appeared. An award-winning radio journalist/personality with more than a decade of experience in broadcast media, she is a former audio journalist with American Urban Radio Networks and Sheridan Broadcasting Networks who also hosts a weekly community affairs show “Good News” on WGBN (1360 AM/98.9 FM).

Originally published May 22, 2024.

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