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Pittsburgh unemployment rate steady as job market shrinks

A volatile summer job market continued in July as Pittsburgh-area employers shed 7,700 workers from payrolls, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the state Department of Labor & Industry.

The contraction, which followed a surge of 9,000 jobs added in June, should not cause concern and belies the strength of the seven-county region’s economy, said Kurt Rankin, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

“Pittsburgh is not suffering from any weakness,” Rankin said.

The July pullback was partly tied to seasonal fluctuations, as schools closed for the summer. It followed a June that would have been difficult to match, in which employment was at a high, Rankin said.

The long-term trend for the region has been positive, he said.

The unemployment rate stayed at 5.2 percent, and the region has added 32,800 nonfarm jobs, non-seasonally adjusted, during the past year, according to the state. The last time annual job gains approached the current level was in February 2011, when the region added 29,600 jobs year-over-year as the local economy rode the shale boom in the post-recession recovery.

“Pittsburgh just continues, at least through the volatility, to add jobs,” Rankin said.

The losses in July occurred in the service sector, which fell by 9,100, most of that because schools closed for the summer. Health care and social assistance employers took a hit as well, losing 2,900 workers.

Gains were led by financial firms and construction companies. Contractors added 1,500 employees to payrolls in July, and financial firms expanded by 1,900 workers.

Most sectors grew in the past year. Goods-producing industries were up 4,200 from July 2014, and the service sector increased 28,600.

Pittsburgh’s unemployment rate has declined four-tenths of a percentage point since July 2014 and remained lower than the rest of the state and the nation. Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for July was 5.4 percent, and the U.S. rate was 5.3 percent. National jobs figures for August are scheduled for release on Friday.

Chris Fleisher is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7854 or [email protected].


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