Pennsylvania’s Meager February Job Gains

Pennsylvania saw its month to month payroll job count stall in February with a mere 600 net gain from January. What’s more, the year over change since January of 2012 was a paltry 0.3 percent. In something of a twist, widespread losses across a number of service sectors led to a drop in private service employment while goods producing jobs led by manufacturing rose just enough to offset the services job losses.

Interestingly, the Professional and Business Services category continued to show strong gains statewide similar to the pattern in the Pittsburgh MSA. From January to February the sector accounted for over half of the growth of the service sectors managing an increase at 3,600 jobs. And over the past year the Professional and Business Services component posted a net job increase of 11,900, accounting for over 70 percent of the growth in nonfarm employment. Moreover, with the 6,300 loss of government jobs, private sector employment rose 22,800 of which over half are attributable to this category.

Three areas of weakness have arisen that were previously producing rapid employment growth rates. In February, private Education and Health Services saw a decline of 5,200 jobs from January and have slowed to a growth rate of less than one percent compared to February of 2012. Similarly, the once near boom- like employment gains in Leisure and Hospitality have been replaced by losses. In February, the sector experienced a drop of 4,000 jobs from January and was down 5,600 jobs from 12 months earlier. Lastly, Mining and Logging jobs were unchanged in February for the January level and have fallen by 1,100 since February of 2012.

Thus, it appears that for the time being at least the state is witnessing a shift in economic leadership from Eds and Meds, Leisure and Hospitality and Mining to the professional and business services component. What this might portend is not clear but it is dramatic nonetheless. One must expect that the very fast gains in the sector cannot be sustained for long unless there is a return to faster growth in other major economic sectors.