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Pennsylvania Private Job Performance Through the Looking Glass

3:39 pm in Uncategorized by ThirdandState

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

In the 1890s, scientist George Stratton reported that, after four days of wearing a lens that inverted his vision, his brain reprocessed what he saw and flipped everything back up the right way.

John Micek’s Friday article brought this experiment to mind. Micek quotes Pennsylvania House Speaker Sam Smith summing up the accomplishments of the House of Representatives in the 2011-12 legislative session: “We … focused on the economy and private-sector job creation.” Majority Leader Mike Turzai echoed Smith saying: “We kept our commitments on fiscal responsibility and private-sector job-creation.”

Let’s take a look at some actual job numbers.

Between January 2011 (the start of the current legislative session) and September 2012 (the latest data available), the number of private-sector jobs in Pennsylvania grew by 87,000, an increase of 1.8%. In this period, Pennsylvania ranked 31st out of the 50 states for private job growth by percentage. National private-sector job growth equaled 3%.

If you look at the last 12 months, from September 2011 to September 2012, Pennsylvania’s private-sector job ranking falls to 35th, with the state’s private-sector job growth equal to about half the national rate.

Now, compare that to job growth between January 2010 and January 2011, when the commonwealth ranked 12th among the 50 states with job growth of 1.8% (compared to the national rate of 1.3%).

As our summer policy brief explained, part of what is dragging down private job growth in Pennsylvania are deep cuts to education and other services that led to the layoff of 20,000 teachers and thousands of other public-sector workers in 2011. As a result, private-sector job growth also is not keeping pace with more than three out of every five states.

I’d hate to see the numbers if the Legislature hadn’t kept its commitments on private-sector job growth.

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

8:03 am in Uncategorized by ThirdandState

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.

A Pennsylvania Impact Fee Gift Wrapped for Drillers

3:08 pm in Uncategorized by ThirdandState

A blog post by Sharon Ward, originally published at Third and State.

Legislation is moving in the state House to enact one of the smallest levies on gas drilling in the nation. House Bill 1950 adopts Governor Corbett’s drilling impact fee plan, amounting to a 1% effective rate over the 50-year life of an average Marcellus well. It would be a big gift to drillers.

Nearly every other energy-producing state in the nation levies a more robust tax or fee on drilling. Drillers in Texas will pay five times as much in drilling taxes over the life of a comparable deep well as they will in the Marcellus Shale under the House plan.

The bill also strips authority from cities, boroughs and towns to regulate local gas drilling activity – a right protected by state law and upheld by the state Supreme Court. Local zoning laws will be eviscerated, while property owners hundreds of miles from active drilling sites could find a pipeline running through their subdivision or a compressor station next to their playground, with no recourse.

House Bill 1950 was approved by the House Finance Committee on a party-line vote Wednesday and could come before the full House for a vote the week of November 14. Meanwhile, the state Senate continues to negotiate the details of its own drilling fee plan.

Things will move fast in Harrisburg over the coming weeks. It’s time for our lawmakers cross the drillers off their gift list and do the right thing for the people of Pennsylvania.

A Mainstream Plan for Taxing Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania

5:00 am in Uncategorized by ThirdandState

A blog post by Sharon Ward, originally published at Third and State.

On Tuesday, I joined state Representatives Tom Murt and Gene DiGirolamo at a press conference announcing their bill to enact a natural gas drilling tax that would support shared statewide priorities like education and human services, as well as local impacts and environmental protection.

Almost 98% of natural gas produced in the United States is subject to a drilling tax or conservation fee. This legislation would finally put Pennsylvania into the mainstream of energy-producing states. It would address the impacts of drilling but go beyond that to support economic growth and more opportunities for Pennsylvanians.

You can listen to a two-minute podcast of my remarks from the press conference below and click here to read more about the Murt-DiGirolamo plan (including a link to the lawmakers’ co-sponsorship memo).