A new report shows that Pennsylvania’s labor economy has held up well throughout the first two decades of the 21st century, even as some industry sectors and regions have continued to post job losses.
According to economists at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state had modest overall job growth and relatively low unemployment between 2001 and 2019.
Using data from the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, and the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, the researchers examined trends in state and county employment in 20 industry sectors. The researchers also compared two business cycles – 2001-2008, the period after a relatively mild recession, and 2008 to 2019, the period encompassing the “Great Recession” and post-recession recovery.
Their report, “Employment Change in Pennsylvania Industries 2001-2019,” from the Center for Economic and Community Development, shows annual statewide employment increased by nearly 374,000 – about 5 , 6 million jobs to more than 5.9 million jobs.
“The first years of the century show the impacts of a minor recession on employment in Pennsylvania, with more than 80,000 jobs lost between 2001 and 2003, followed by a rapid recovery from 2003 to 2005,” Siena Baker, partner at undergraduate research and lead author of the report, said. “With the widespread collapse of the US real estate market in 2008 and the major recession that followed, approximately 190,600 jobs were lost. “
The report says the recovery from the Great Recession was slow to take hold but reached pre-recession levels throughout the 2010s. By 2019, the state had gained nearly 58,000 jobs, raising the rate of unemployment at around 4.7%.
The report said job growth was uneven, however. While most counties remained relatively stable between 2001 and 2008, with gains or losses of less than 5 percent, most of the eastern and southeastern counties saw strong positive net growth in the use. After the Great Recession, southeastern counties and some counties in the greater Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas saw a slight recovery in employment, but many counties in the west and north experienced job losses more significant between 2008 and 2019 than between 2001 and 2008.
Overall, 24 counties, mostly in the southeast, experienced employment growth in the two periods, while 21 counties, mostly in the western and northern regions of the state, saw employment growth. saw job losses in both periods.
The researchers said the state’s job growth was lower than that of Ohio and West Virginia, however.
Industries that experienced employment growth included health care and social assistance, adding more than 317,000 jobs between 2001 and 2019. Other industrial sectors experiencing employment growth included accommodation and food services. catering, business and business management, professional and technical services, as well as transport and storage.
The sectors with the most job losses were manufacturing and retail trade, which lost more than 248,000 and 63,000, respectively. The report says the dramatic loss of manufacturing jobs follows a nationwide downward trend in manufacturing employment, attributed in part to automation and international competition.