State jobless rate rises for 1st time in year |
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State jobless rate rises for 1st time in year

The state’s unemployment rate edged up slightly in June, the first month-to-month increase since July 2011, the state said on Thursday.

At 7.5 percent in June, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was one tenth of a percentage point above May’s rate of 7.4 percent, according to data obtained from a survey of households statewide.

The jobless rate was pushed up by a 2.7 percent increase in the number of people looking for work, which stood at 488,000 statewide last month.

“Sometimes the (unemployment) rate going up is not a bad thing,” said Frank Gamrat, an economist with the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a Castle Shannon think tank.

“What that tells me is that people are confident, and they’re looking for work,” he said. “You have to be unemployed before you can be counted as employed.”

Meanwhile, there were 5.73 million jobs statewide in June, up slightly from the 5.72 million jobs counted in May in separate survey of employers.

Gamrat said he was disappointed by the small gain in jobs, which stands in contrast to what labor force figures are showing.

“We’re getting more people in the labor force, but it’s not showing up in the nonfarm jobs,” he said.

One bright spot in the statewide labor report has been the growth of jobs in the mining and logging sector, which Gamrat said are the result of the booming Marcellus shale natural gas industry. In the last 12 months, 6,900 jobs have been added in mining and logging, a 21 percent increase.

But most other industries have had flat to modestly increasing job growth.

“Overall, we’re not negative, but our growth has been very measured, very small, and not as robust as we would like it to be,” Gamrat said.

That assessment squares with a report on Thursday by the Keystone Research Center, a nonpartisan organization in Harrisburg, which said state budget cuts to education and other services have slowed the state’s employment growth.

Keystone Research Center said the state ranked No. 12 in the nation for job growth in 2010 but has slipped to No. 39 over the last six months. “State cuts, especially in education, have stalled Pennsylvania’s job growth coming out of the recession, and now Pennsylvania is lagging behind many other states,” said Mark Price, a labor economist and co-author of the Keystone report.

The state shed 22,700 teachers, first responders and other public servants between December 2010 and December 2011, the report said.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or [email protected].

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