PA unemployment rate for April matches record low

Pennsylvania’s nonfarm jobs continue to increase, reaching a record high in April for the fourth straight month. 

The result is unemployment dropped .01 of a percentage point to 4.1% in April, equaling the lowest rate on record dating to January 1976. The national unemployment rate from March also decreased by .01 of a percentage point, dipping to 3.4%. 

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is down 0.2 percentage points from April 2022. The U.S. rate also dropped .02 percentage points over the year. 

April 2023 saw the state’s civilian labor force increase by 4,000. The month also saw resident employment rise by 13,000 and unemployment fall by 8,000. Nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania rose by 11,000 and established a record high of 6,117,1000. 

Seven of the 11 supersectors saw employment increase in March, the largest gain being in education and health services, which saw an increase of 8,400. Professional and business services also reached a record high. 

Nonfarm jobs saw gains of 156,300 over the year, with all 11 supersectors showing increases. Education and health services gained 55,200 jobs, the largest gain among supersectors.

PA tourism bouncing back to pre-pandemic level

The Pennsylvania Tourism Office reported Thursday that the state’s tourism industry is returning to 2019 levels. 

Pennsylvania welcomed 180 million visitors in 2021, and tourism spending is generating more than $66 billion for the state’s economy and supporting over 452,000 jobs. Visitor spending also contributed $4.2 billion in local and state taxes. 

Released in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW), the 2021 Economic Impact of Travel and Tourism report provides state, regional, and county levels that show the contributions of the tourism industry to the state’s economy. 

Carrie Fischer Lepore, Department of Community and Economic Development Deputy Secretary of Marketing, Tourism & Film, said in a press release that tourism is a significant economic driver that injects billions into Pennsylvania’s economy and helps fund vital services such as education, infrastructure, public safety programs, and transportation. 

“Each household in Pennsylvania would need to pay an additional $802 in taxes to replace the tax dollars generated by the tourism industry which were received by state and local governments in 2021,” Lepore said. “We know that these numbers will continue to grow as consumer trends show, yet again, significant enthusiasm for travel to Pennsylvania.” 

Containing the most recent available data, the report reveals that visitor activity in Pennsylvania significantly increased in 2021. The rise is related to the reopening of businesses and venues and a boost in traveler confidence. 

Notable 2021 results included the following: 

  • An increase in visitors of more than 28 million from 2020. 
  • $66.3 billion in state and local taxes. 
  • 452,885 jobs supported, a ratio of 1-in-17 jobs in the state. 
  • A $9.1 billion increase in direct visitor spending to reach $38 billion, which includes hotels, restaurants, retailers, and tourism related businesses. 

Visitor spending produced $8.8 billion in government revenues, while state and local taxes generated $4.2 billion in 2021, an increase from 2020 of $614 million. 

Contributing the most to the economic recovery is the growth in overnight visitor spending, which increased by $7.5 billion in 2021. More than 60 million trips resulted in the spending of $23.2 billion. 

The Economic Impact of travel and Tourism report is compiled at the Pennsylvania Tourism Office at DCED. Information for the report is supplied by Tourism Economics, and data is provided by Longwoods International and STR, the latter delivering analytics and marketplace insights for the hospitality industry. 

Longwoods’ tracking study of American travelers indicates that 93 percent have trips planned in the next six months, the highest level since 2020.

Pa. unemployment rate declines, nonfarm jobs reach record high

Lower unemployment rates and new highs in nonfarm jobs marked the month of March in Pennsylvania. 

The state’s unemployment rate last month dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.2%, and the total nonfarm jobs hit a record level, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s situation report. 

March marked the third consecutive month of record-high total nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania. The state’s unemployment rate was also two-tenths of a point below its level in March 2022. 

The national unemployment rate also declined, dropping one-tenth of a percentage to 3.5%. The national rate is also down 0.1 percentage points over the year. 

Pennsylvania’s civilian labor force, which is the estimated number of residents working or looking for work, increased 5,000 over the month. Resident employment rose by 12,000 over the month and unemployment decreased 7,000. 

The state’s nonfarm jobs increased by 12,500 over the month to a record level 6,108,900 in March. The previous mark of 6,096,400 was set last month. Jobs increased from February in seven of the 11 supersectors with the largest gain (4,500) in leisure and hospitality. Professional and business services also hit a record high. 

Total nonfarm jobs increased by 159,000 over the year with gains in all 11 supersectors. Education and health services were up 52,000 and had the largest volume over-the-year gain among supersectors. Three other supersectors each added more than 16,000 jobs.

Lehigh lawmaker looks to make esports available to all Pa. students

Electronic sports (esports) are introducing students in high school and higher education to careers in gaming, software, and STEM-related jobs, and a Lehigh lawmaker looks to make esports accessible to every student across the state. 

Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, was part of a roundtable discussion held Wednesday by the House Majority Policy Committee to learn more about the billion-dollar industry and its impact on the state’s economy and education. While esports teams exist throughout Pennsylvania at the high school level, the cost of these programs includes thousands of dollars in equipment and supervisors and poses challenges to economically disadvantaged school districts. 

Schlossberg has authored legislation to create a sustainable funding stream to support extracurricular programs for students across the state. 

“At first glance, esports might look like only video games, but one of the greatest aspects of extracurricular activities is to create an atmosphere where students build friendships and learn outside a classroom,” Schlossberg said in a statement. “Esports not only provides those opportunities, but it also exposes students to new digital technology and presents the possibility – like traditional sports – for students to earn college scholarships.”

Rep. Danilo Burgos, D-Philadelphia, said esports can provide the spark that encourages academic and emotional development in students.

“One of the most exciting aspects about esports, for me as a legislator and Latino, is its potential for an equitable solution to our strikingly low number of Black and Hispanic workers in STEM-related careers,” said Burgos, chairman of the Policy Subcommittee on Progressive Policies for Working People.

“Esports attract a diverse group of students, regardless of race or gender, and it has proven itself as a gateway into encouraging young people to pursue STEM education as well as STEM-related careers.”

Developing familiarity with digital technology at a young age is another aspect of esports. Studies show that Black youth make up the largest portion of the gaming teenage community, yet Black workers account for only 9% of the jobs in STEM-related fields.

“Esports offer students another chance to interact and learn alongside their peers,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie. “It also has the potential to bring together a diverse group of students, and it encourages an interest and understanding of the science and digital technology being used at their fingertips. Esports also offer a tremendous economic opportunity for Pennsylvania.”

During the roundtable discussion, the House Majority Policy Committee heard from experts and business leaders on the esports industry and its potential positive effects on Pennsylvania’s economy and workforce.

Lehigh Valley, central Pa. represented by student entrepreneurs

Student entrepreneurs will represent the Lehigh Valley and central Pennsylvania today in the final round of the annual State System Startup Challenge, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) announced. 

Jake Hill of Camp Hill and a student at West Chester University, and Stelios Melekos of Churchville and East Stroudsburg University, will join Victoria Heffelfinger of North Huntingdon and Pennsylvania Western University (PennWest) in featuring products and services in high demand. The three finalists will pitch their business plans to judges today for an opportunity to gain funds for their startup or expand their existing business. 

The student entrepreneurs will discuss products in three academic areas within PASSHE universities and three industries with worker shortages – education, healthcare, and business. The start-up challenges fit with PASSHE universities’ efforts to address workforce shortages in education, healthcare, business, social services, engineering, and computer science. 

“These student entrepreneurs have innovative and exciting startups that combine business, healthcare and education, which are three fields in high demand in Pennsylvania,” said Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia D. Shapira. 

“State System universities are preparing thousands of students for success as entrepreneurs, and I commend the supportive faculty and the remarkable ingenuity and energy of the students.” 

Henry is a senior Bachelor of Applied Science student with a pharmaceutical product development concentration. His business plan is Lectra Technologies LLC, which produces Lectra Tape to help people navigate their rehabilitation process and complete physical therapy. 

Lectra Tape is conductive kinesiology tape that delivers electrical pulses from a wireless muscle stimulator to aid in the healing and rehabilitation process. Sensors in the tape collect data that is analyzed and shared with the user and physical therapists, so they can adjust rehabilitation plans to provide the best results and encourage the individual to continue their physical therapy. 

Melekos is a junior business management student with a concentration in entrepreneurship. Melekos’ business is Blitz Performance LLC, which provides anglers with the highest quality and most innovative lures and apparel for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. Blitz Performance products are available to retail customers online at blitzfishingperformance.com and wholesale at tackle shops across five states. Blitz Performance looks to build a sense of community around the brand by developing the tools to catch more fish and make the most of anglers’ time on the water. 

Heffelfinger is a freshman special education student. Her business plan is Wildlife Water School LLC, an aquatic instruction school that provides swimming lessons for people ages 6 months and older. Offering an inclusive environment for people of all abilities and backgrounds, the school provides basic skills, infant swimming resources, and advanced instruction. Specialized lessons for people with disabilities or other challenges are also available. Wildlife Water School intends to offer aquatic therapy in the future. 

First prize is $10,000, and second- and third-place finishers will receive respective prizes of $5,000 and $2,500. The finalists were selected from more than 60 students and student teams from across the state-owned public university system. 

The Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will air the competition live tonight at 7. The program can also be viewed live on PCN Select. 

“The ingenuity and energy of these finalists speaks volumes about the spirit of innovation that is thriving at our universities,” Chancellor Dan Greenstein said. “Several past winners of this competition have launched their own businesses from the ideas born of this real-life experience, and I look forward to the new businesses that may emerge from this year’s competition.”

Lehigh Valley Senators serving on commission to improve education system, workforce

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) to improve Pennsylvania’s workforce and education system has led to legislators being appointed to serve on the Pennsylvania Commission on Education and Economic Competitiveness. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) appointed Aument and fellow senators David Argall (R-Carbon/Luzerne/Schuylkill), Rosemary Brown (R-Lackawanna/Monroe/Wayne), and Devlin Robinson (R-Allegheny) to the commission. 

Aument said if Pennsylvania is to compete and win in a global economy, the state’s education system must be redesigned to align the skills taught in the classroom with the needs of the workforce. 

“I am eager to work together on a shared vision for our education system that better prepares Pennsylvania students for the jobs of the future,” Aument said in a statement. 

The commission is tasked with creating a long-term plan to align the state’s education system with job demands. The commission will undertake the following: 

  • Create a shared, bipartisan vision for 21st century education that will prepare students to compete in a global economy. 
  • Establish policies to give all school districts the flexibility and support they need to build world-class education systems. 
  • Recommend a legislative action plan to achieve these shared goals. 

“Preparing our students today for the jobs of tomorrow is critical to strengthening Pennsylvania’s economy and making our Commonwealth even more competitive from a workforce perspective,” Ward said. 

She added that  Aument, Argall, Brown, and Robinson will provide a comprehensive and focused approach to the work of the commission that will help deliver an education system to address 21st century workforce needs. 

Brown said envisioning the future of Pennsylvania from the lenses of quality education will shape the state to be a major economic competitor. 

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to study the current challenges and create a concrete plan to prepare our next generation for success,” he said. 

Argall stated that while there are no simple solutions to fixing Pennsylvania’s education system, progress can be made by working in a bipartisan fashion. 

“As Chair of the Labor and Industry Committee, I regularly hear from employers struggling to find qualified workers to fill open positions,” Robinson said. “I look forward to working with the commission to rethink how we educate and train the workforce of tomorrow.”

PA Chamber examines Shapiro’s strategy to rebuild workforce

Gov. Josh Shapiro has been touring Pennsylvania speaking of his proposals to restore the state’s flagging workforce. An effort that may not be looking enough at the big picture, according to the PA Chamber of Business and Industry. 

Jon Anzur, vice president of public affairs for the PA Chamber, noted that Pennsylvania businesses of every size and industry are dealing with a workforce shortage that predates the pandemic but was intensified by COVID-19. 

“Even before COVID, businesses were struggling with the worker shortage, but the pandemic really exacerbated this challenge,” said Anzur. “So many workers left Pennsylvania to go to another state to find opportunities or just left the workforce entirely. Employers as a result are struggling to find qualified workers. 

“You’re seeing Pennsylvania largely starting to recover the jobs that were lost during the pandemic. The challenge, though, is that Pennsylvania lagged the rest of the nation by six months to fully recover those jobs and our workforce today is smaller than it was pre-pandemic.” 

In the two-plus weeks following Shapiro’s first budget address, the governor has crisscrossed the state discussing his budget’s “commonsense” proposals to rebuild Pennsylvania’s workforce.  

Shapiro’s tour has taken him to Lancaster City to speak to local firefighters, to the Pennsylvania Police Academy in Hershey, the George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science in Philadelphia, Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Gwynedd Mercy University, Colfax K-8 Elementary School in Pittsburgh, and Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy in Erie. 

A common thread to all the above is Shapiro’s desire to hear firsthand the challenges facing nurses, police, and teachers, three professions that have been hit particularly hard by a decreased workforce. 

Anzur said that while the PA Chamber appreciates the governor focusing on the workforce issue, he thinks the chamber would encourage lawmakers to focus on policies that would improve workforce development across all sectors. 

“From our perspective, job training and investing in proven job training and career and technical job training programs would help individuals develop the skills they need for the jobs that are available,” Anzur stated. “We talk to employers in manufacturing, in technology and innovation, in health care and they have jobs that are available. They just can’t find the workers who have the skills necessary for those careers.” 

“Investing in different educational programs and job training, and re-training of workers for these available jobs would go a long way,” he added. 

Lack of affordable health care is another challenge the chamber sees as exacerbating the worker shortage. 

“This is really a multi-pronged issue,” said Anzur. “We see younger families struggling to afford childcare and it’s leading to one of the adults in the family to leave the workforce to stay home with the kids. This is something we really think the private sector is responsible for driving solutions.” 

To that point, Anzur said the chamber is seeing Pennsylvania’s employers taking up the task of addressing the crucial childcare issue in various ways. Employers are assessing their employee’s needs to determine what working parents need from their employers, what their flexibility is in the business, and if they can provide hybrid work schedules and work from home. 

“Implementing these sorts of strategies and tracking the impact is something we’re seeing from our members and businesses across Pennsylvania, and I think it’s starting to have a positive impact,” said Anzur. “Figuring out that childcare piece will go a long way to getting adults back into the workforce.” 

Viewing the workforce shortage from a macro-economic perspective, Anzur said that as Pennsylvania’s tax and regulatory environment improves, so will investment into the state. That means more economic growth, which would have a positive impact on wages and bring Pennsylvanians back into the workforce and keep them in state. 

“With the pandemic, we saw tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians leaving the state to go other places for opportunities,” said Anzur. “As businesses are able to save on costs as the result of tax and regulatory reform, they will be able to invest more of that money back into the workforce. That’s going to lift wages and lead to more Pennsylvanians seeking employment here.” 

An additional key factor in rebuilding the state’s workforce focuses on continuing the phase down of the corporate net income tax from its current 8.99% to 8.49% later this year and eventually down to 4.99% by 2031. 

Permitting reform is another issue Shapiro has been speaking to, and Anzur noted that Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate have introduced legislation to streamline and speed up the permitting process. 

“That’s a process that costs businesses millions of dollars annually here in Pennsylvania,” said Anzur. “As businesses save on those costs and are able to reinvest that money back into their workforce, I think you’ll see a positive impact of people coming back into the labor force here in Pennsylvania.” 

Workforce shortages rank among the biggest challenges facing Pennsylvania residents, and Shapiro has proposed incentivizing the nursing, police, and teaching professions with a three-year tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for new recruits. 

Anzur said the PA Chamber agrees with the governor’s prioritizing the labor shortage, and at the same time is taking a big picture view of the crisis. 

“From our perspective,” said Anzur, “while we share the governor’s concern and focus on strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce, we’re looking at a more macro approach to addressing this issue that will impact positively Pennsylvania’s workforce across all sectors – job training, childcare, and improving our tax and reg environment.”

DeSales opening Allentown education hub

932 Hamilton St.
DeSales is opening a location at 932 Hamilton St. in Allentown. PHOTO/COURTESY DESALES UNIVERSITY –

DeSales University is opening a new location in downtown Allentown. 

The Center Valley university is cutting the ribbon on the new space on March 23 at 932 Hamilton St. 

is cutting the ribbon on a new location in downtown Allentown.  

“This is a mission-forward endeavor for DeSales University,” says Father James Greenfield, president of the school. “DeSales Allentown is about improving access to quality educational services and cutting-edge skills training. This partnership has the power to transform individuals, families, communities, and businesses.” 

According to Greenfield the new location will serve as a hub for educational partnerships between DeSales and Allentown residents and business leaders.  

Features of the Allentown location include flexible lounge, office, and conference spaces for meetings and classes, events and networking, and presentations and training.  

The building is also equipped with modern technology, including Wi-Fi, large visual displays, projection, and multi-function printing and scanning. 

“We’re thrilled to welcome DeSales to downtown Allentown,” says Jarrett Laubach, City Center’s director of leasing. “To have one of the region’s best universities come to Allentown will provide convenient access for people pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees, many of whom already live and work in downtown Allentown.” 


Shapiro announced $44B budget that gives, and takes away

Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro
Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro PHOTO/PACAST –

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro introduced his first budget plan to the state’s legislature Tuesday, promoting a spending plan he called conservative, that would save taxpayers money. 

The $44 billion 2023-2024 budget would increase spending by about 4 percent. 

But he focused first on a big reduction. 

He started by proposing the elimination of the state’s cell phone tax. 

“In today’s world, practically everyone has a cell phone – and being connected to the rest of the world is critical to economic stability, safety, family and success,” Shapiro said. “By eliminating the cell phone tax, we will save Pennsylvanians $124 million every year.” 

He called for an expansion of the Property Tax Rent Rebate Program for seniors and those with disabilities. 

He noted that the rebate program has not been updated in 17 years. 

“I want to raise the maximum rebate for seniors from 650 dollars to 1,000 dollars. And I want to increase the income cap for renters and homeowners to 45,000 dollars a year,” he said. 

Under his plan, nearly 175,000 more people would quality for the rebate. 

He also addressed the needs of business, calling on the legislature to speed up the reduction of the state’s Net Income Tax. 

“The budget also makes a significant down payment on innovation and economic development. Like a 50-percent increase in the Manufacturing Innovation Program, which connects our universities 19 with our businesses to find new solutions and spur innovation,” he said. 

Shapiro pointed to Allentown, which he described as a city with a thriving Hispanic population, and said the budget would address funding to support women- and minority-owned businesses. 

“For the first time ever, the commonwealth is going to put sustainable state funding into what’s known as the Historically Disadvantaged Business Program. We’ll provide long-overdue funding for women and minority-owned businesses across this commonwealth, to support their growth and open new doors of opportunity,” he said. 

Nothing that agriculture brings in $132 billion a year in revenue in Pennsylvania, he said the budget addresses farmers that have been dealing with an avian flu outbreak, which has contributed to skyrocketing poultry prices. 

“Under the leadership of Acting Secretary Redding, the Department of Agriculture is working to improve biosecurity efforts on our farms and make farmers who lose birds whole. Pennsylvania is the only state with a fund of $25 million to help fill the gap in covering losses from this terrible disease – and I want to put another $25 million into that fund this year,” he said. 

The budget also calls for a new Organic Center of Excellence to help the state’s 52,000 farms stay on top of the latest farming techniques. 

Shapiro also said the state’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage needs to be increased to $15 per hour. 

“It’s lower than that of 30 other states – including every single one of our neighbors,” he said, noting that the minimum wage hasn’t been increased in 14 years. 

He also vowed to continue to make improvements to the unemployment compensation system, which has been riddled with problems and delays. 

He said that a year ago, workers’ compensation had a backlog that was over 100,000. It’s currently down to 33,000, a number he said he’d still like to see improved. 

Childcare was another area he said needed a boost. 

He said the state economy loses nearly $3.5 billion a year because of a lack of childcare options. 

Pennsylvania has nearly 4,000 unfilled child care jobs and 38,300 children on waitlists. 

To address the issue the budget calls for a $66.7 million investment in Child Care Works to give more parents access to stable child care for their kids. 

Addressing education, he proposed nearly $1 billion in new money for public schools, including a free school breakfast program and pledged a half a billion dollars over the next five years for environmental repairs and upgrades in schools. 

The budget will need to be approved by the state house and senate and would go into effect July 1.