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Report: PA Workers Benefit from Tight Labor Market, Wage Gains

by Danielle Smith, Keystone State News Connection

Sep 06, 2023

A tight labor market with steady growth and historically low unemployment – those are the findings in the new “State of Working Pennsylvania” report.

In July, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 3.5%, compared with 4.3% a year ago.

Report co-author Stephen Herzenberg, an economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, said the strong economy should benefit workers even more looking forward. When there are more job openings than unemployed workers, he said, it gives workers greater choice and leverage in the job market.

“Because of the tight labor market, even though inflation was high, workers’ wages have actually kept up,” he said, “and they’re beginning to see increases in real wages in their pay packets. And that should continue into the next year.”

He said the tight labor market appears to be driven by continued job growth plus long-term demographic factors which are shrinking the growth rate of the working-age population.

The good news now, Herzenberg added, is that inflation is no longer high and has come down in the last 12 months.

“While inflation was coming down – from the 9% to the current 3% – workers kept up because of that tight labor market,” he said. “There’s some industries – low-wage industries, like restaurants and hospitality, and retail sector – where you’ve seen robust wage increases.”

He noted that Pennsylvania has been a leader in some areas of workforce training, such as growing apprenticeship programs, and said the state should build on that strength and expand training for the kinds of apprenticeships that connect people to well-paid jobs.

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