drop in unemployment; More workers needed

Unemployment declined in southwestern Pennsylvania to begin 2022, but the region’s labor issues have persisted, according to the latest data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.

In January, 5.1% of workers in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, made up of seven counties, were unemployed, up from 5.3% in December 2021. But the unemployment rate in the region remained higher than the national rate of 4%.

Some Pittsburgh-area counties fared better than others to start the new year. Butler County held the lowest unemployment rate at 4.4%, while Fayette County held the highest rate at 7.1%. Allegheny County, home to the city of Pittsburgh, had an unemployment rate of 4.9%.

“The small job gain is great, but it’s still been pretty steady since the fall of 2020,” said Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research. “There was a reset.”

The region’s labor force received a boost in January with 1,200 workers added to the labor force from December 2021 to January 2022. But the modest monthly gain was not enough to offset the large labor losses since the start of the pandemic in 2020. From January From 2021 to January 2022, 19,700 workers left the labor force in the region.

Reasons for these losses include people retiring early, returning to school or leaving the workforce to care for children or elderly family members. Many should not return to work.

“All of those factors have been significant and they’re all getting worse,” Briem said. “I don’t think you’re going to see people coming back from retirement. I think many more people have made permanent changes to their labor market situation than we thought. There will be some marginal changes going forward, but I don’t think we’re going to go back to where we were before COVID.

Change in Labor Force, January 2022 Pennsylvania Department of Labor, Center for Workforce Information & Analysis

Show raw data – For the interactive graph, click here.

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