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National Unemployment Dips Below 8 Percent

State employment numbers are not yet available for September, but Pennsylvania jobs have been equal to or below national numbers for 70 consecutive months.

National Unemployment Dips Below 8 Percent

A new jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the national unemployment average dipped below 8 percent for the first time in 44-months, settling at 7.8 percent.

For the month of September, nonfarm employment rose by 114,000 jobs, according to the report. Of those jobs, 10,000 came from the public sector. The bureau also adjusted the July and August jobs figures by an additional 86,000. 

The employment news was greeted with cautious optimism by an Obama administration that is eager to change the conversation from the President's widely panned performance at Wednesday's debate against Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

"While there is more work that remains to be done," blogged Alan Krueger, chairman of President Obama's council of economic advisers, "today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression."

Romney acknowledged the drop in unemployment at a rally in Abingdon, Va., Yahoo News reports, but stressed that the recovery is taking too long. He also pointed out the numbers don't reflect the number of people who have simply stopped looking for work.

It's too soon to know exactly how Pennsylvania employment measures up to the national numbers because the state report for September won't be released until October 18. However, as Department of Labor & Industry spokesperson Christopher Manlove points out, Pennsylvania has stayed equal to or below the national average for the past 70 consecutive months.

"Pennsylvania has an old and established economy with diverse industries," said Manlove. "We don't rely on just a few sectors to thrive, like Florida and California with housing or Michigan and the auto industry."

Another reason for Pennsylvania's slightly stronger performance in the job market is the more conservative hiring practices in the state, said Lori Hourigan, a vice president with Robert Half International, a staffing services company with offices in Philadelphia.

"The state as a whole tends not to overhire," said Hourigan. "A lot of other places tend to overstaff when times are good. Pennsylvania was hurt just like everybody else when the recession hit, but there was not as much to cut as those other states."

In the suburban Philadelphia area, Hourigan said, job growth has been especially strong in the technology, health care and finance industries. Center City hospital systems have expanded into surrounding communities, such as Einstein Medical Center's recently opened branch on Germantown Pike in East Norriton. These expansions have created more opportunities for nurses and doctors looking to get of the nursing homes and into a hospital setting, Hourigan said.

"In the financial sector, there are not as many college graduates majoring in accounting and finance," said Hourigan. "At the same time, more people are retiring from that industry, creating a big demand."

With winter approaching, Hourigan predicts more gains in seasonal employment as part-time and stay at home workers look to supplement their income.

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