(The Center Square) – The latest economic data shows a continuation of a trend for Pennsylvania: falling but above-average unemployment and higher prices than a year ago due to inflation.
A new report from the Commonwealth Foundation finds that Pennsylvania lags behind the national average.
“Pennsylvania’s economy remains a sluggish recovery, with fewer jobs and fewer people in work compared to pre-pandemic levels,” the report said. “Pennsylvania has the eighth highest unemployment rate in the country, and more than 93,000 people have retired entirely.”
More than 108,000 salaried jobs have disappeared since February 2020, while 20 states have fully recovered from job losses during the pandemic.
“The crux of the report,” said Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Nathan Benefield, “is not to exaggerate the good news because — a lot of people focus on the unemployment rate itself, it doesn’t quite measure the state’s economy.”
The latest numbers continue the trend of recent months that Pennsylvania is improving, but not as fast as other states, and still lagging behind the pre-pandemic status quo.
While the national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is 4.2 percent in August. That beats some border states like Maryland, New York, and Delaware, but when Americans look for work, they also look nationally. Far-flung states with strong economies like Florida and North Carolina continue to attract workers. This competition makes it difficult for Pennsylvania to differentiate itself and grow its population.
The Commonwealth can’t control some issues like inflation, but policymakers have some leeway to influence the economy, Benefield said.
“What’s been driving up inflation is government spending, which has put more money in the wrong places, resulting in more money chasing fewer goods,” he said. “Controlling government spending and not trying to ‘boost’ the economy with spending is the first step.”
Benefield recommended regulatory reforms to remove economic strains. “This is a huge opportunity for Pennsylvania lawmakers to consider,” he said.
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The middle square. Previously he worked for Philly weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is editor-in-chief of emigrants, a journalistic project focused on the Appalachia region.
This article was republished with permission from The middle square.