For a fourth straight month, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remained at 5.4 percent in August, the same as one year ago. During that same 12-month period, the U.S. rate dropped a full percentage point to the current 5.1 percent.
According to the state Department of Labor and Industry, total non-farm jobs dropped by 2,900 in August but increased 57,300 for the year.
“We will continue to grow slowly but surely over the coming year,” PNC economist Kurt Rankin said.
But to dip below the 5 percent level, he said Pennsylvania’s economy needs a “spark.”
“Manufacturing, tech, health care, these are all industries that provide jobs within the state, but for which the state is not a primary driver nationally," Rankin said. "So they’ll continue to add jobs but not accelerate the state’s growth rate.”
Over the last year, education and health services added a combined 19,000 jobs. Construction added 9,100.
The only industry that could accelerate that job growth rate, according to Rankin, is natural resources.
“Unfortunately [natural gas] prices will remain low in the near term (and) lack of infrastructure will keep the prospect of exporting natural gas on hold for some time,” Rankin said. “ So there’s nothing we can look at and say ‘here’s the driver that takes Pennsylvania’s growth rate to the next level.’"
According to the state labor department, the mining and logging sector, which includes natural gas drilling, lost 2,600 jobs over the last year, including 1,000 in August alone.
On a national level, unemployment rates fell in 29 states during August while remaining the same in 11. The Labor Department said the rates rose in the remaining 10 states.