(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s economy has had the luck in the past of weathering economic busts better than other states, but since the pandemic, its unemployment recovery has lagged.
In an analysis from WalletHub, Pennsylvania ranked 43rd nationally in bouncing back from pandemic-induced unemployment.
Its unemployment rate of 4.6% in May was the sixth-highest in the United States. While the commonwealth had 298,000 unemployed workers in May 2022, 65% better than in May 2020 when it had 846,000 unemployed workers, that was the 14th-worst in the nation.
The state’s unemployment rate had been rising before the pandemic hit, standing at 4.3% in May 2019 and going up every month until it hit 5% in February 2020. Then, when the pandemic hit Pennsylvania, it spiked to 16.5% in April, and steadily declined since then.
Among its neighbors, only Delaware was ranked below Pennsylvania. New York just edged out Pennsylvania for 42nd, but West Virginia was 18th and Ohio was a comfortable 31st.
Unemployment rates and changes to the number of unemployed workers aren’t everything – the number of people looking for work matters too – but other factors also don’t bode well for the commonwealth.
The state’s Independent Fiscal Office expects economic stagnation or a recession within the next year, as The Center Square previously reported. A lesser emphasis on cyclical industries like tourism and larger sectors that are more steady for employment, like health care, may make a recession less severe in Pennsylvania, but encouraging economic growth has been a long-standing issue, even before the pandemic.
With inflation a lingering problem and less growth expected, full-time work may be relatively more rare.
“Contract work and project work will continue to grow in 2022,” William J. Heisler, a business professor at Troy University, told WalletHub. “Because of labor shortages and low wages, service jobs in the fast-food and hospitality industries will continue to be in demand, especially as coronavirus restrictions on travel are reduced or eliminated.”
State legislators have been concerned about how to grow during an inflationary period and have held a series of hearings on inflation, as The Center Square previously reported. During those hearings, experts suggested tax reforms that lower the cost of business for entrepreneurs to grow.
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.