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Region’s jobless rate stays at 6.8% in May, but hiring slows, state report shows | TribLIVE.com
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Region’s jobless rate stays at 6.8% in May, but hiring slows, state report shows

Thomas Olson
| Tuesday, June 26, 2012 12:01 a.m

Unemployment in the Pittsburgh region remained steady in May, but hiring at employers slowed, a state report issued today showed.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate for the seven-county region remained at 6.8 percent in May, the same rate as in April, said the state Department of Labor & Industry.

That’s an improvement from the jobless rate a year ago, which was 7.3 percent.

The rate is determined by a survey of residents in the seven counties.

The region also added 7,800 jobs last month, a survey of employers showed, compared with 10,800 new jobs in April.

“Hiring has slowed. We’re adding fewer jobs,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group. “Pittsburgh appears to have exhausted the advantages it had over much of the rest of the nation as a result of not suffering as extensive a recession.”

For example, service-related employers added just 6,300 jobs last month, which was the sector’s smallest May gain since 2005. Education and health jobs, normally a big job creator, fell by about 5,000, largely but not solely because of end-of-school-year layoffs.

Manufacturing, which had been rebounding for much of the past two years, lost 400 jobs. Construction, whose job counts normally spring to life by May, added just 1,800 jobs last month and stood at 4,100 fewer jobs than in May 2011.

“Manufacturing took a step backward last month,” said Frank Gamrat, an economist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Castle Shannon. He also called construction employment “a weak number.” It reflects the lack of major projects under way locally combined with the continued dearth of homebuilding.

“We’re not seeing the job growth we saw last year,” Gamrat said. “But the number of new jobs is still moving in the right direction.”

The number of unemployed residents rose by 400 to 84,500 last month from 84,100 in April, both on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the survey of residents in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

The region’s 6.8 percent jobless rate for May compared with 7.4 percent for Pennsylvania and 8.2 percent nationally.

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or at tolson@tribweb.com.

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