State ranks low on job climate, study says
The fact that the Pennsylvania Legislature was able to assemble a budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year without any deep spending cuts or new taxes is a heartening sign of an improving economy in the state.
But there also are warning signs that all is not well. And one of those warning signs can be found in a study recently released by financial analysis firm WalletHub.
Its report, titled “2018’s Best & Worst States for Jobs,” puts Pennsylvania way down in 46th place among the 50 states.
The analysis combined 29 different subcategories to come up with a single score for each state, and then ranks them. Washington state came in first place, and among Pennsylvania’s neighbors, New Jersey was 14th, Maryland 19th, New York 28th, Ohio 37th and West Virginia 50th.
There were a number of poor finishes in the subcategories that contributed to Pennsylvania’s
overall weak score. Among them were: • 40th in unemployment rate
• 40th in underemployment rate
• 40th in “industry variety” • 42nd in job security • 40th in job satisfaction • 49th in income tax burden for low-wage individuals
• 47th in income tax burden for medium-wage individuals
“Unfortunately, this analysis isn’t surprising,” said Bob Dick, senior policy analyst for the nonprofit Commonwealth Foundation, which advocates for free-market solutions to grow Pennsylvania’s economy. “Pennsylvania has long lagged the nation in job and income growth. Since 2014, the state’s job growth rate is 3.3 percent compared to 5.7 percent in the rest of the country. Pennsylvania is also only one of 10 states that have seen a reduction in its labor force over the last three-plus years.”
There were a couple of bright spots for Pennsylvania in the study. The state finished 12th in the metric for access and participation in employer-based retirement plans, fourth for employee benefits, and 10th in share of workers under the poverty line.
Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for WalletHub, also noted that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate, while low compared to historic measures, is high compared to the rest of the U.S. right now.
“The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 4.9 percent,” she said. “While this number can indeed be considered low, when compared to that of the other states, it is in fact the 11th highest currently.”
Michael Merrill, a professor at Rutgers University, was one of several experts in job markets and labor consulted by WalletHub. He pointed to ways that states can foster future growth in their job markets.
“The ‘care economy’ will remain the sector in which employment grows the most rapidly,” he said. “In other words, jobs involving care of the young, the hurt, the sad, the lost, the handicapped, the elderly, etc., will continue to be most in demand. Doing things for people is a growth field.”
He also talked about job retraining programs, which are an element that both incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and his opponent in the fall election, Republican Scott Wagner, have talked about in their campaign appearances.
“The most successful job training programs, by far, are registered, earn-whileyou learn apprenticeships,” Merrill said. “Give most people a job and they will learn how to do it. The transition from earning to learning is many times more often successful than the transition from learning to earning. We are approaching the problem backwards. What most displaced workers need is not re-training, but re-employment. If we put them to work, they will learn.”
The perspective of the Commonwealth Foundation is that the jobs market will continue to struggle in the state as long as big-government policies remain in place, Dick said.
“Gov. Wolf’s tax-andspend approach is part of the problem,” he said. “Policymakers need to focus on reducing the state’s punishing tax burden, controlling spending, and rolling back onerous regulations and licensing laws to correct Pennsylvania’s economic trajectory.”