State ranks low on job cli­mate, study says

The Boyertown Area Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Dave Le­mery Watch­

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.”

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