Unemployment Up After Historic Month


Photo by Fraser Mummery

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The unemployment rate in southwestern Pennsylvania bounced back up to 4.1 percent in June after falling below 4 percent in May for the first time since the 1970s. But local unemployment is still lower than one year ago and the gap between the national rate and the rate in the region has narrowed.

This June, unemployment across the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area fell 1.1 points from the rate reported in June 2017, when unemployment stood at 5 percent, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.    

Butler County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 3.8 percent, while the 5.6 percent rate in Fayette County is the highest rate in the Pittsburgh MSA.

“The general story is the Pittsburgh unemployment rate is slightly above the national rate,” said Gus Faucher, senior vice president and chief economist of the PNC Financial Services Group.  “We are seeing weaker job growth than what we’re seeing nationally, but the labor market continues to improve and get tighter and that’s good news for wage growth.  We will see stronger wage growth in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area as the labor market tightens and businesses find it more difficult to hire.”

The June data suggest that unemployment in the region nearly mirrors what is being seen across the nation. In June 2017, the nation’s unemployment rate stood at 4.3 percent – 0.7 percentage points lower than the Pittsburgh region.  The 4 percent national unemployment rate this June is only 0.1 points lower the region’s rate.

Closing the gap to the nation’s unemployment rate is significant, said Faucher. “The big thing is we’ve seen higher energy prices and that has encouraged more energy production in western Pennsylvania.  So that’s helped close that gap.  As energy prices have moved higher, as commodity prices have moved higher, we’ve seen more industrial activity and manufacturing activity in the region.  We’ve continued to lag, but we have seen that gap start to close and I expect it will continue to close through the rest of this year and into 2019.”