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June Jobless Rate Slid Down In Pennsylvania, Payrolls Jumped

Allyson Ruggieri
90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s unemployment slid a bit down in June after hitting a pandemic peak in April, but it was well above the national rate even as payrolls rebounded by more 230,000, the state reported Friday.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 13% in June, down four-tenths of a percentage point from May's adjusted rate, the state Department of Labor and Industry said. It had initially estimated Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate at 13.1% in May. The state’s rate went over 16% in April, the highest rate in more than four decades of record-keeping.

But May's preliminary figure was adjusted upward to 13.4%. The national rate was 11.1% in June.

Last year, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate hit a nearly two-decade low of 4.1%.

At 13% in June, Pennsylvania was just one of 10 states with double-digit percentage unemployment rates, but it was also one of the states hardest hit by the virus in the spring. The labor force plunged by 175,000, shrinking to its lowest level, 6.3 million, since 2007.

Meanwhile, payrolls had another big rebound in June, gaining back another 1 in 5 jobs lost during the pandemic as the number of new infections slowed during the month and Gov. Tom Wolf eased social distancing restrictions that allowed many businesses to reopen.

At the height of coronavirus-shutdown job losses, payrolls fell by more than 1 million to the lowest level in at least three decades of federal data that goes back to the start of 1990 under the same methodology.

A survey of employers showed seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls grew by more than 230,000 in June to surpass 5.4 million, the department said. That was still the smallest payroll figure since 1997, a dramatic turnaround after the state hit a record of more than 6.1 million on payrolls in February.

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

Most sectors grew in June, with leisure and hospitality adding the most, 76,000, to grow back to 361,000. Still, it remains more than 220,000 jobs — nearly 40% — behind where payrolls were in February. Education and health services also reported a substantial rebound, adding back 55,000 jobs to rise back above 1.2 million.

Meanwhile, around 3 million Pennsylvanians have sought unemployment benefits since mid-March, including the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others who do not typically qualify.

Nationally, 42 states saw their unemployment rates decline in June, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, as customers returned and businesses reopened under loosened coronavirus restrictions around the country. Payrolls increased in all 50 states, the bureau said.