PA Must Reads: Local Jobs Data, Holding the Jobless Hostage and the History of Banker Pay

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) has released local data on jobs in December. Later today L&I will release the full data here. What follows is a run down of how newspapers across the commonwealth covered the new release.

Randolph Sexton of York, a recent graduate of YTI Career Institute, waits to be called for an appointment Monday at Cheddar’s Casual Café in Manchester Township. Christopher Paules has likely cooked your lunch or dinner. The long-time culinarian has worked or managed kitchens for many of the chains and clubs that pepper York County, including Regents’ Glen Country Club, Ruby Tuesday and the Olive Garden. And despite his skills, Paules has struggled the last few years to find a job that offers both security and enough hours to make a living. On Monday morning, the Dover Township resident was one of more than 100 people who stopped by the soon-to-open Cheddar’s Casual Café in Manchester Township to fill out a job application…

In December, the county’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.7 percent — one tenth of a percentage point above the state’s rate of 7.6 percent, according to data released today by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

Unemployment in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton metro area decreased three-tenths of a percentage point in December to 8.9 percent.

The region’s jobless rate was the lowest since May, when it was 8.7 percent, according to state Department of Labor and Industry data released today. Nevertheless, the metro area led the state in unemployment for the 21st straight month.

Unemployment declined in Reading and Berks County in December. The city’s jobless rate fell to 11 percent in December from a revised 11.6 percent in November, while the county’s jobless rate fell to 7.9 percent from 8 percent in November, according to statistics provided today by the state Department of Labor and Industry…

In December, Reading’s unemployment rate remained fourth-highest among the state’s 80 largest municipalities. Hazleton, with a rate of 11.7 percent; and Chester and York, both with a rate of 11.3 percent, had higher jobless rates than Reading…

In Berks, a total of 187,200 were employed in December, up from 186,200 in November, and up from 183,300 a year prior.

Unemployment in the Pittsburgh region followed state and national trends in December and fell, dropping two-tenths of a percentage point to hit 6.9 percent, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry reported today.

The Pittsburgh region’s nonfarm job total reached its highest level since April 2001, increasing by 5,200 to 1.15 million.

The Pittsburgh region is the state’s second-largest labor market and had the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in December.

Unemployment in Harrisburg-Carlisle fell to 6.9 percent in December, down two-tenths of a percent from November, according to new figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

When adjusted for seasonal jobs, the Harrisburg-Carlisle region had 259,700 jobs as of December, 2011, up from 258,800 in December, 2010. There were 19,300 unemployed workers, compared to 21,500 in 2010.

The bottom line is that the economy is improving slowly. Unemployment remains abnormally high even in regions that have the lowest unemployment rates in the Commonwealth. Workers who are laid off each month because of the continued weakness in the economy face a prolonged job search.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports this morning that a minor legislative change required to maintain access to federally financed extended unemployment benefits for 17,000 Pennsylvania workers faces an uncertain future as the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry pushes the state House of Representatives to delay passage of the bill. The business lobby is seeking to hold the extension hostage in order to push for changes that will in the short run benefit its members but in the long run undermine the overall effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system for the rest of us.

Thousands of Pennsylvanians will see their federally funded unemployment benefits expire after this week, with legislation to extend those checks lingering in the state House of Representatives.

A pending measure, which passed the state Senate last week, would offer 13 additional weeks of benefits to the state’s jobless residents. The federal funding was approved by Congress in December but requires the state to tweak its unemployment compensation rules in order to receive those dollars.

That bill is awaiting consideration by a House panel, which has a vote scheduled for Monday. Legislative staffers say the belatedly approved benefits would be retroactive, but pressures to also enact broader changes to the state’s unemployment compensation system could further hold up that assistance.

Approximately 17,000 residents would be affected if the benefit extension is not approved, according to the state’s Department of Labor & Industry.

Speaking of people seeking short term gains at the expense of the rest of us, Gillian Tett of The Financial Times has an excellent summary of the history of banker pay. While I don’t share Tett’s optimism that the current abnormal levels of pay in the financial sector are at an end, it is a step in the right direction to at least acknowledge that banker pay is out of step with historical norms.