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The employment roller coaster continues to course through Southwestern Pennsylvania.

One month after unemployment rates rose, and two months after they fell in this corner of the commonwealth, they declined again in August, according to seasonally adjusted statistics provided by the state Department of Labor & Industry.

Rates dropped from July by at least two percentage points in Washington, Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland counties. Washington’s figure slid to 10.5% from 12.8%; Greene’s to 10.7% from 13.0%; Fayette’s to 13.1% from 15.5%; and Westmoreland’s to 9.9% from 12.1%.

COVID-19, of course, has had a profound effect on regional employment, forcing workers from their jobs. One year earlier – August 2019 – rates were 4.6% in Washington County, 5.2% in Greene, 6.1% in Fayette and 4.5% in Westmoreland.

Unemployment statewide was 10.3% in August, down 2.2 percentage points from July. The national figure was 8.4%, down 1.8 points.

Washington is one of seven counties in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, where the August rate was 10.5%, a decrease of 2.3 points from the previous month. The MSA rate in August 2019 was 4.4%.

Greene County is not in the MSA.

Washington’s labor force, according to Labor & Industry, was 103,500 in August, down 900 from 104,400 in July. Employment, though, was 92,400, an increase of 1,400, while the number of county residents listed as unemployed plummeted by 2,300 – to 11,100.

Greene’s jobs picture brightened in August. The county’s labor force (16,300) dipped by 200 in August, but the number of employed bumped up by 300 to 14,600 and the number of unemployed decreased by 400 to 1,700.

Butler County again had the lowest jobless figure (8.5%) in the MSA, which also includes Pittsburgh. Westmoreland (9.9%) was second, followed by Allegheny (10.5%); Washington (10.7%); Armstrong (10.9%); Beaver (11.8%); and Fayette (13.1%).

Non-farm jobs rose 1.2% in the Pittsburgh MSA, an increase of 99,200 to 1,097,300 over the month. Year over year, however, jobs in the MSA were down 8.2%. But statewide, jobs declined 8.9%.

Among 11 supersectors in the MSA, education and health services posted the largest jobs increase in August – an estimated 2,900, mostly in health care and social assistance.

Six supersectors experienced significant gains, according to L&I, as only financial activities (1,400) and manufacturing (700) lost 100 or more positions over the month.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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