Economy
4:19 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Pennsylvania Unemployment Rises for Fourth Straight Month

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is still lower than that of most states, but the Commonwealth's jobless numbers are inching toward the national average.

The state's Department of Labor and Industry reports an unemployment rate of 8.3% for September, up more than a percentage point since May. The U.S. unemployment rate has held steady at 9.1% during that time period.

The state lost nearly 16,000 jobs over the span of a month. Government employment took the biggest hit, shedding 8,300 jobs since August.

Of the state's ten largest metropolitan areas, Pittsburgh ranks at number 9 with an unemployment rate of 7.8%. Johnstown stands at number 2 with 9.3% unemployment, while the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area has the highest unemployment rate at 9.6%.

The liberal-leaning Keystone Research Center (KRC) is pointing to the rising jobless rate as a good reason for the General Assembly to pass a jobs bill.

"Policymakers have been sitting on their hands," said KRC Executive Director Steven Herzenberg. "The debate has been dominated by austerity economics, the idea that if we cut spending, somehow the economy will magically come back. That's not going to happen."

He said the decline in government jobs was a particular shot across the bow for the legislature, a warning that budget cuts are having dire aftereffects.

The economist said that instead of cutting back, lawmakers should pass a measure to invest in infrastructure while the market is down and materials are cheap.

"Let's do that infrastructure spending. Let's do that school construction and those energy efficiency retrofits," said Herzenberg. "We'll get jobs when we need them, and we'll get better value for the taxpayer's dollar."