The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

May 3, 2013

Labor and Industry lays off 108 | End of recession cited

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

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 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.

Secretary of Labor and Industry Julie Hearthway said that the vast majority of the Labor and Industry’s budget comes from the federal government.

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

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 that 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,” Tony Lodico, of the Mon-Valley Unemployed Committee said.

By the numbers

County and jobs eliminated:

Dauphin: 12.

Allegheny: 6.

Philadelphia: 5.

Crawford: 1.

Lawrence: 1.

Mercer: 1.

Northumberland: 2.

Montour: 1.

Remainder of state: 79.

 

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