Aug 21, 2023

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate fell to a new record low in July, and is now at the same as the national rate, according to government figures released Friday.

Meanwhile, payrolls hit a new record high, while the state’s labor force shrank.

The state’s unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 3.5% from June’s rate, the state Department of Labor and Industry said. The drop was the largest in the nation last month.

The national rate was 3.5% in July, as the number of people seeking unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell again last week to remain at healthy levels in the face of high interest rates and inflation.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate normally lags the national rate because of an economy that is less dynamic than some other states and a workforce that is relatively older and slower-growing.

Kurt Rankin, vice president and senior economist for the PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh, said that hasn’t changed.

But, Rankin said, it was inevitable that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate would catch up to a national unemployment rate that has remained exceptionally low for so long in a tight labor market.

Pennsylvania’s workforce remains relatively stagnant.

The U.S. labor force — a measure of the number of people working or looking for work — has grown past pre-pandemic levels, while Pennsylvania’s labor force remains below its pre-pandemic record.

That means there is a lack of people coming to the state to work, as well as fewer people in Pennsylvania who are returning to work after retiring or otherwise quitting during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rankin said.

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