Pennsylvania’s Job Market Has Now Fully Rebounded From the Pandemic
Harrisburg, PA: Today, the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association released its first “Pennsylvania’s Workforce Trends” report highlighting Pennsylvania’s workforce and job market. The report found that Pennsylvania’s job market has fully recovered from the pandemic, with uneven recovery in local workforce areas. While Pennsylvania’s job growth rate has been strong, it is yet to be determined if this is sustainable growth or a pandemic bounce. “Pennsylvania’s Workforce Trends” will be part of a series on the latest workforce development and labor market information impacting Pennsylvania that distills critical information for policymakers and stakeholders to develop responsive workforce development policy.
“Pennsylvania’s job market has fully recovered from the pandemic, but it’s important for policymakers to work closely with local workforce development boards to ensure continued growth and an even recovery,” said Carrie Amann, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association. “Our workforce development system can help connect businesses to employees and provide training for workers. We must understand the gaps in our labor market to make Pennsylvania the most dynamic economy with the strongest workforce in the country.”
Pennsylvania Now Has More Jobs Than Before the Pandemic
The number of non-farm jobs in Pennsylvania now exceeds their pre-COVID levels. As of October 2023, the latest data available, Pennsylvania had 72,000 more jobs than in February 2020.
Pennsylvania Has Enjoyed Strong Recent Job Growth Relative to the United States
Over many decades and in the post-pandemic period, Pennsylvania’s slower job growth partly reflects slower population growth than nationally (particularly, lower working-age population growth). Population growth from February 2020 to October 2023 equaled an estimated 0.75 percent in Pennsylvania and 3 percent in the United States.
Recently, there has been a slight narrowing of the gap in job growth between Pennsylvania and the United States. Pennsylvania’s faster-than-U.S. job growth was likely a “pandemic recovery” effect early in this period. Since Pennsylvania lost 18.6 percent of its jobs from February to April 2020 and the U.S. lost 14.4 percent, Pennsylvania needed faster job growth after April 2020 to fully recover.
Since April 2020, Pennsylvania’s job growth has been at least 75 percent of U.S. job growth, well above the population-driven norm, below 50 percent. Whether this healthy job growth in Pennsylvania persists remains to be seen. But, for now, it is a positive trend.
Most Counties and Workforce Areas Also Have Jobs Close to or Above Pre-Pandemic Levels
As of September 2023, 13 of Pennsylvania’s 22 Local Workforce Development Areas had rebounded to their February 2020 pre-COVID employment levels. An additional four are within roughly 2 percent of pre-pandemic employment. The remaining five Local Workforce Development Areas are within 4 percent of their pre-pandemic levels.
Industrial Breakdown of Pennsylvania’s Jobs Recovery
The recovery of employment in Pennsylvania’s industries has been rapid but uneven. Industries with significant shares of high- and middle-wage positions have recovered beyond their pre-pandemic employment levels—like trade, transportation and utilities, and professional and business services. Financial services, education, and health services have seen employment levels recover to about 2 percent over February 2020. Construction and manufacturing remain just below pre-pandemic employment levels. Government, leisure and hospitality are experiencing the most lag in their job recovery.
The sectors lagging the most in employment may have in common challenges attracting and retaining workers – because of low wages (in leisure and hospitality, residential construction), physically demanding work (construction and manufacturing), or slow adjustment of wages to short-term market conditions (government). In the case of leisure and hospitality (now 2.8 percent under February 2020 employment), some job drop could be long-term because of reductions in business travel and business lunches now that many more people telework.
The Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association (PWDA) serves as the voice of the Pennsylvania workforce development system and a clearinghouse for workforce development information statewide. Known for Pennsylvania’s premier annual workforce development gathering every spring, we provide development and capacity building opportunities to workforce development professionals, local workforce development boards (WDBs), and other stakeholders while continuing proactive advocacy efforts on behalf of Pennsylvania’s workforce development system. Learn more by visiting https://www.pawork.org