New Castle News

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May 3, 2013

State cutting jobs as recession apparently ends

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry is shedding 108 jobs, in part because the recession is supposedly over.

One of the positions being eliminated is in Lawrence County.

The cuts come even though there are still 512,000 unemployed people — 200,000 more out-of-work Pennsylvanians than when the recession began, government data shows.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is 7.9 percent, higher than the national average of 7.6 percent. The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania was 4.6 percent in December 2007, the month that is typically considered the beginning of the recession.

Economists say the recession ended in June 2009.

Julie Hearthway, secretary of labor and industry, said the vast majority of the department’s budget comes from the federal government.

“Now that the recession is considered over, the money is dwindling,” Hearthway noted.

Faced with a loss of $30 million in funding, the agency has eliminated 14 management jobs and 94 wage positions. Most of the job cuts will be in offices across the state.

The job cuts “hit a number of departments,” Hearthway said. “We looked very carefully to see what we could do to not impact service.”

Those jobs include workers in: information technology, workforce development and the unemployment compensation tax office.

Labor and Industry has 5,000 employees.

Earlier this year, unemployed people had complained about long waits or busy signals when they were trying to get service at the agency’s unemployment call centers. Hearthway said the layoffs will not impact the call centers.

An advocate contacted Thursday said the call center problems seem to have been solved. Though some of the strain on the system might have been diminished by the calendar, as jobless claims tend to decrease in the spring.

“It may be that people have lowered their expectations about the kind of service to expect,” noted Tony Lodico of the Mon-Valley Unemployed Committee.

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

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