Pennsylvania sees another big monthly drop in jobless rate

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate began to look like the rest of the nation's in September, taking another steep drop from its post-pandemic high as the labor force and payrolls grew, according to state figures released Friday.

However, the state still has yet to recover many of the jobs lost to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 8.1% in September, down 2.3 percentage points from August's adjusted rate of 10.4%, the state Department of Labor and Industry said.

That is below the state’s pandemic-driven unemployment high of 16.1% in April, the highest rate in more than four decades of record-keeping.

The national rate was 7.9% in September. Pennsylvania was harder-hit by the pandemic than most states in the spring, and its unemployment rate had been one of the highest in the nation since.

Payrolls grew more slowly in September than in recent months, but gained back 19,400 of the more than 1.1 million jobs lost since mid-March.

With payrolls at nearly 5.6 million, Pennsylvania has regained slightly more than half the jobs lost in the past seven months, according to state figures.

In a survey of households, the labor force grew by an estimated 52,000 in September, closer to 6.4 million, still below the record high at close to 6.6 million in February. Unemployment fell by 141,000 while employment grew by 194,000.

At the height of coronavirus-shutdown job losses, seasonally adjusted nonfarm payrolls fell to the lowest level in at least three decades of federal data that goes back to the start of 1990 under the same methodology.

It is still down more than 500,000 from where it was, or about 1 in 12 jobs total, and still behind where payrolls were in 2010, a dramatic drop-off after the state hit a record of more than 6.1 million in February.

Hardest hit has been the leisure and hospitality sector, which shed about 60% of its payroll as restaurants and bars were forced to shut down in-house service and shift food service to takeout or delivery.

Most sectors grew in September.

Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, grew the most, by 16,000 jobs in September, and remains 150,000 jobs, or about 25%, behind where payrolls were in February.

The education and health services sector fell by 9,000, to remain above 1.2 million, and government fell by almost 17,000 jobs to 683,000.

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