Philadelphia Business Journal reports that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in years—9.5 percent—but the Journal doesn’t quite understand why: “The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that the projected percentage job growth in Pennsylvania is just 1.3 percent, 41st out of 50 states.” How can both things be true?
Easy: We’ve given up.
Check out this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
See that top line? Back in June, there were 666,300 Philadelphians in the labor force—people who were either employed or seeking employment. Jump to November: That number had dropped to 653,100 workers. Somewhere in five months, in other words, Philadelphia lost 13,000 workers. More of the remaining workers were actually employed, making the unemployment level look lower.
Now, Philadelphia obviously didn't lose 13,000 members of its population that quickly. A person can disappear from the official labor force counts for all sorts of reasons, but one big one is that they simply stopped collecting unemployment benefits—if you're collecting benefits and out of work, you're presumed to be seeking a job. Not necessarily the case if you're jobless and not receiving benefits.
In any case, the bottom line is that fewer Philadelphians are working. Pay no attention to the unemployment rate; it's producing falsely cheery news for the city. We're still a disaster.