unemployment

What Do Unemployment Numbers Really Mean?

Feb 17, 2015
Michael Carian / Flickr

Earlier this month the unemployment numbers were announced. Over two-hundred thousand jobs were added to the economy. While this is good news why do so many people feel we’re still in the recession? Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark explains how unemployment is assessed and who counts as “unemployed.”

Unemployment assessments are done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. O’Roark says that the official ranks of the unemployed do not simply include people who don’t have jobs.

The unemployment rate in the seven-county Pittsburgh labor market dipped to 4.8 percent in November.

“The last time the rate was this low was in April 2008 when the rate was also at 4.8 percent,” said Ashley Yanchunas, business and industry analyst with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The number of area residents with jobs rose by 4,700 and the number of those out of work fell by 2,700 last month.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh continues to have lower levels of unemployment than most similarly sized cities such as: Indianapolis, Kansas City and Cleveland. 

The Steel City weathered the economic crisis of 2008 better than just about any of these cities and its low unemployment and housing prices have drawn residents back to the area. But will this trend continue?

Mark Price, a labor economist with the left-leaning Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, discusses Pittsburgh’s prospects going forward. In particular, he explains that economic recovery has not yet affected those in blue collar jobs. 

“Two sectors that are going to be important for Pittsburgh, two sectors that have not performed well at all for obvious reasons would be manufacturing and construction… that reflects the deepness and the nature of the recession.”

Overall, however, Price does feel good about the economy going forward.

More people were working in Pennsylvania in October than had been since August of 2008. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry released its seasonally adjusted employment situation report for October 2014 on Friday, pegging total nonfarm jobs in the commonwealth at 5,802,300. That is up 12,600 jobs since September.

“We had a tremendous amount of growth,” said Sara Goulet, state Department of Labor and Industry spokeswoman.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly one million veterans, but that only tells half the story.

1,500 of them are homeless, which is a 46.2 percent increase since 2009.

About 2,400 Pennsylvania vets claimed Unemployment Compensation benefits last November according to the Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.

While the rate of job growth in Pennsylvania sits dead last among states in the U.S., the numbers in Pittsburgh are a bit more optimistic, according to recent studies by the Keystone Research Center and PittsburghTODAY.

The Greater Pittsburgh area added 7,500 jobs from September 2013 to September 2014, a 0.6 percent increase. Pennsylvania, ranked 50th for job growth since January 2011, lost 9,600 jobs in September alone.

Pennsylvania's jobless rate is up slightly but remains better than the national figure. The state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday the seasonally adjusted rate last month was 5.7 percent, up one tenth of a percentage point from June.

“There’s nothing to be alarmed about,” said Sara Goulet, a department spokeswoman. “It’s a very, very small uptick and we do see those periodically. It’s the natural ebb and flow of the employment situation.”

The U.S. rate is currently 6.2 percent.

After seeing no appreciable job growth in the Pittsburgh metro area more than a year ago, the region added 10,700 jobs between June 2013 and June 2014, according to a report from Pittsburgh Today.

“That’s a 0.9 percent increase, which doesn’t set the world on fire, but Pittsburgh has always been kind of a slow and steady grower,” said Doug Heuck, Pittsburgh Today director. “But it’s good news that we’re back growing jobs again.”

Pennsylvania ranks 42nd among all states in job growth over the last 12 months according to the left-leaning Keystone Research Center.  However, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate for May was 5.6 percent,which was below the national rate of 6.3 percent, and better than 30 other states.

Stephen Herzenberg, the center’s executive director, said job growth in the commonwealth has been poor the last few years, but he acknowledged that the private sector created 15,600 jobs in the first four months of this year.

Older Unemployed Get New Opportunities

Jun 9, 2014

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for persons ages 55 and older has increased steeply since the 2008-09 recession. Many were laid off in favor of younger employees, who are more familiar with new technology, leaving older workers with obstacles to support themselves and their families.

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh is working to improve the lot of older, lower-income job seekers with the Mature Workers Program, which gives eligible workers on-the-job training for up to four years at local non-profits.

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate continued its rapid drop in February, while employer payrolls inched up and the labor force grew after a 14-month skid.

The state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday that Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 6.2 percent last month. It was last at that mark in 2008. The national rate was 6.7 percent in February.

Bytemarks / Flickr

Senate negotiators have struck a bipartisan deal that could renew federal unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. But the question becomes, what will happen when this legislation makes its way to the House?

US Congressman Mike Doyle has been in the House of Representatives since 1995, he's witnessed the emergence of an increasingly partisan congress and explained why he's hopeful for this legislation.

Emergency Unemployment Funds, which go to people who’ve been receiving unemployment benefits for more than six months, are set to expire Dec. 28.

“We estimate that 80,000 Pennsylvanians who are claiming emergency unemployment compensation benefits will lose those benefits as of the end of December this year because the federal government is not continuing that program,” said Sara Goulet, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Initially touted as making the state’s Unemployment Compensation Fund solvent, Act 60 was passed in 2012 and implemented at the beginning of 2013. A provision in the Unemployment Compensation Solvency legislation changed the way unemployment compensation is calculated and paid to workers.

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed into law a bill that is aimed at filling a hole in the unemployment compensation fund left by a cut in federal dollars.

House Bill 26 will provide the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry funding from the employee UC tax.

For the first time ever, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry will be offering amnesty for individuals or businesses who owe money to the unemployment compensation fund.

Department spokeswoman Sarah Goulet said currently about $613 million is owed to the fund.

“It works out to be 130,000 individual claimants who are eligible to participate in amnesty and the over payments that are due there are about $356 million,” she said, “and there’s about 50,000 employers who need to pay into the state’s UC trust fund through UC tax, and they owe $256 million.”

Federal sequestration cuts will reduce the unemployment compensation checks of thousands of Pennsylvanians starting in April.

The roughly 10 percent dip amounts to between $7 and $61, depending on the size of each benefit check.

Sara Goulet, with the state Department of Labor and Industry, says people who have been on unemployment for more than 26 weeks will have to absorb a reduction.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate in January rose to 8.2 percent and is now at its highest point since October 2010 and Democrats in the state are hoping to use the numbers as political fodder.

The numbers were released Friday afternoon. By Monday morning, Senate Democrats were pointing to the report as all the proof they need to show the Corbett administration’s policies have failed to spur investment and, in turn, job creation.