Pa?s unemployment rate down in May, but still at near-record levels

More than 13% of Pennsylvania workers were officially unemployed in May, according to U.S. Department of Labor data released Friday.

That’s an improvement from April’s record-setting 15.1% unemployment rate, but still the second highest rate in recorded history, going back to 1976. During the Great Recession, Pa’s unemployment rate reached 8.8% in February and March of 2010. For May, 849,000 Pennsylvanians were considered unemployed.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, these unemployment figures are complicated by the cononavirus pandemic—and likely should be 3 percentage points higher, due to misclassification of those “employed but not at work”

While employers added 198,000 jobs to payrolls in May, more than 918,000 payroll jobs have been lost since February, or 15% of all nonfarm jobs.

As the chart below shows, nearly every sector has been hard hit—with the exceptions of “financial activities” and government. 

In terms of rehiring in May, Construction and “Accommodation and Food Service” added the most jobs—100,000 new jobs in May between the two (32% and 15% growth respectively).     Accommodation and Food Service is still down 50% since February, but it was down 66% from Feb to April.

There remains a stark contrast between the public and private sector. Government employment is down 3% since February, versus a 15% loss of private sector jobs.