Lower Unemployment, Smaller Labor Force

May 30, 2018
Photo by Argia Sbolenfi Lower Unemployment, Smaller Labor Force
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Unemployment fell in southwestern Pennsylvania in April compared to one year earlier, but the region’s labor force continues to shrink.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the seven-​county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area decreased from 5.2 percent in April 2017 to 4.3 percent in April 2018, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Within the region, Butler County had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.1 percent. Fayette County had the highest at 6.2 percent for the most recent year-​over-​year period.

Despite the recent decline, the unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh MSA continues to be higher than the national rate, which is 3.9 percent.

Labor Loss

Meanwhile, the region’s labor force lost 21,200 workers from April 2017 to April 2018.

Retirements are becoming a bigger factor,” said Jim Futrell, vice president, market research, Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “Retirements are going to constrain the labor force and we have to figure out how to bolt that up again.”

Students graduating from local colleges are one source of workers local employers are more aggressively pursuing to fill out the labor force, said Linda Topoleski, vice president for workforce operations and programs at the Allegheny Conference.

We’ve seen changes in employers in terms of their hiring practices. They’re more willing to hire more fresh-​out students that are already here. A couple of years’ ago, we saw a large portion of our job postings requesting three to five years experience. Now we’re more often seeing zero to three years experience. What that means for us is that more students that are already here would be able to stay here.”

And those whose skills are in demand are clear winners. “The balance is more in favor of talent now that we’re in the tightest labor market we’ve seen in some time,” Topoleski said.

Julia Fraser

Julia Fraser is a Pittsburgh Today staff writer and research specialist.

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