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Unemployment in the Pittsburgh region fell in September, a sign the economy is improving as employers add more jobs, experts said.
The jobless rate in the seven-county region declined to 7.4 percent, down 0.4 of a percentage point from 7.8 percent in August, the first decline after four months of rate increases, the state said today.
"This is a good report. The economy is going upstream. We're still not at 2007 and 2008 (pre-recession) levels, but we're not that far from there," said Frank Gamrat, an economist and senior research associate for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a Castle Shannon think tank.
The jobless rate fell mainly because schools reopened and rehired staff, adding 7,200 jobs, state and area economists said. Another big jump came in the transportation and warehousing sector, which added 3,400. On the negative side, wholesale and retail trades lost 3,400.
The region -- Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties -- continued a trend of year-over-year job increases. There were almost 13,000 more jobs in September than a year ago, increasing the total to 1.147 million, the state Center for Workforce Information and Analysis said in its report.
In September, Pennsylvania's jobless rate was 8.3 percent and the national rate was 9.1 percent.
Not all the region's economic news was good.
While the region's jobs picture is better off than a year ago, Harold Miller, president of Future Strategies LLC, a Downtown consulting firm, said the rate of regional growth slowed a bit from August to September, compared to pre-recession levels of September 2008. Local schools experienced the job increases from August to September, but there were 2,700 fewer total local education jobs than a year ago, which is likely the results of cutbacks caused by the reduction in state funding, Miller said.
"We are slowly creeping back up," Miller said. "It was pretty much a typical September. It was pretty weak on the government side."
The manufacturing sector, where the region had lost 12,000 jobs in the recession, has added 3,300 jobs since the recession ended in July 2009, bring its total to 89,600 jobs in September, Miller said.
"We're adding jobs, but the jobs are not coming back where we lost them," Miller said, about the shrinking number of manufacturing jobs.