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Pennsylvania payrolls grew in December amid labor shortage

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s payrolls grew again in December as the unemployment rate fell for the 10th straight month, according to new figures Friday, but a persistent worker shortage continued to keep labor markets tight.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped three-tenths of a percentage point to 5.4% from November's rate, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.

The national rate was 3.9% in December. The gap between Pennsylvania's unemployment rate and the national rate is among the widest it has been in decades.

In a survey of households, the labor force shrank for the seventh straight month, reflecting a worker shortage that some economists attribute partly to an increase in people who have recently gone to work for themselves. It dropped by 18,000 to move to closer to 6.2 million. The number of employed grew by 4,000.

The state hit a record-high labor force of almost 6.6 million just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It’s now at the lowest level since 2005.

In a separate survey of employers, payrolls in Pennsylvania grew in December by more than 14,000, driven primarily by hiring in the trucking and warehousing sector. It reached 5.8 million for the first time since the pandemic began.

Pennsylvania has regained almost 75% of the 1.1 million jobs lost in the early months of the pandemic. It reached a record high for payrolls of 6.1 million just before the pandemic, according to state figures.

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