Regional employers added 900 jobs in July but the unemployment rate still rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.8 percent.
Welcome to the Byzantine world of employment statistics. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry surveys a sampling of regional employers monthly to gauge how many jobs they’ve added or cut. That’s where the additional “900 seasonally adjusted jobs” came from, according to Steven Zellers, Labor Department industry analyst.
To gather data for the unemployment rate, the state relies on surveys of residents within the Valley region – which includes the counties of Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon and Warren County, N.J. for statistical purposes. So Valley residents who worked in say, New York City, before being laid off would count toward the jobless rate here.
According to the July survey of residents, there were 416,800 people in the region’s seasonally adjusted labor force, which is 800 more than in June. That could be because newly-minted high school and college graduates started looking for work but also formerly discouraged workers might be returning to the labor force, according to Robert Wendt, director of research for the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.
The number of Valley residents employed in July was 380,000, up 300 from June but the number of unemployed also increased by 600 to 36,900.
Wendt said the most striking figure was the 5,500 job losses in July for local government educational services, which includes public school employees. Many of losses would be seasonal with schools closing for the summer. However, since July 2010, federal, state and local governments have lost 1,300 jobs in the region.
The U.S. economy is only growing by about 1 percent and it needs to grow by at least 2.5 percent to put a dent in unemployment, Wendt said.
“You’ve got a general economy that’s stuck in neutral and you’ve got a major loss in government jobs that isn’t being made up” by increases in the private sector, Wendt said.
In other sectors:
-- Health care and social assistance lost 900 positions in July, which would include 18 people who got pink slips from the Private Industry Council of the Lehigh Valley, which operates the CareerLink, an agency that works to help get people jobs.
-- Manufacturing was down by 300 jobs since June but up by 700 over July 2010.
-- Mining, logging and construction added 200 positions in July for an increase of 500 over July 2010.
Broken down by county, Lehigh County’s unemployment rate rose three-tenths of a percentage to 9 percent in July and Northampton County’s rate edged up one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.6 percent.
The Valley region’s jobless rate is among the highest in the state, tied with Philadelphia. Only the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area is worse with 9.4 percent unemployment. The national rate is 9.1 percent.