March Jobs Report Shows PA Economy and Job Market Now in Good Shape

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: March Jobs Report Shows PA Economy and Job Market Now in Good Shape

Following the release of March job numbers for Pennsylvania this morning, Keystone Research Center research analyst Maisum Murtaza released the following statement on the health of the state’s economy. 

“Pennsylvania gained almost 12,500 non-farm jobs in March 2023 reaching the highest number on record – 6,108,900. The state’s unemployment rate fell to 4.2% in March, a historic 23-year low (matched last in June 2000) and below the 4.6% average in the 12 months before the pandemic.

Our economy has bounced back fully from the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a great foundation for addressing the state’s unfinished economic business – such as raising the pay of low-paid Pennsylvania workers.

Federal pandemic assistance programs like the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) and the CARES Act contributed to the rapid rebound from the pandemic recession. They helped us avoid years of “jobless recovery” like the ones that resulted from misplaced federal (and state) austerity policies after the Great Recession.

Examining March job numbers by sector, we find that high-wage Pennsylvania industries such as Financial Services and Professional Business Services now have more jobs than before the pandemic. Middle-wage industries such as Construction and Manufacturing are within 1% of pre-pandemic employment levels. In the low-wage Leisure and Hospitality industry, and in the Government sector, however, employment remains almost 4% below pre-pandemic numbers.

In Leisure and Hospitality, lower employment levels may partly reflect a drop off in jobs supported by business travel – more businesses now hold digital meetings instead of traveling to in-person gatherings. In both Leisure and Hospitality and Government, another challenge is that wages are too low to retain existing workers and attract new ones. As a result, many low-wage businesses and government agencies now have vacancies they can’t fill. A substantially higher minimum wage in Pennsylvania would help low-wage employers attract and retain more workers.  


upgrade rail across the United States, the Keystone Research Center, together with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), and Senator Bob Casey’s office, released the exciting findings of a new research report on the job-creation potential of green locomotive production in Erie Pennsylvania.

Written by the premier U.S. modeler of the jobs and economic impacts of investments that reduce carbon emissions, the PERI institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the study calculates the employment impacts of expanding “green locomotive” manufacturing at the Lawrence Park plant of Wabtec (Westinghouse Air Brake Technology), in three geographies: Erie County, across Pennsylvania, and in the United States.

Green locomotive production is expected to increase in the United States because there are about 26,000 old, polluting locomotives in the United States that need to be replaced or remanufactured. Upgrading and expanding U.S. rail networks could further increase demand for green locomotives further.

The new report estimates the employment impact of producing 500 and 1000 locomotives at Lawrence Park and models how that impact varies based on the locomotives being (a) clean (“tier 4”) diesel-electric locomotives or (b) battery-electric locomotives with the batteries manufactured onsite (creating more jobs) or sourced outside the plant.

The report finds that producing 1,000 green locomotives per year at the plant would create:

  • 3,400 to 5,100 jobs in Erie County;
  • a similar number (3,060 to 5,100) in the rest of Pennsylvania; and
  • 9,860 to 14,960 in the U.S. economy as a whole.

About 800 people currently produce locomotives at the plant. These 800 jobs would become more secure with a jump in production and between 2,600 and 4,300 new jobs would be created at the facility with production of 1,000 green locomotives annually.

Keystone Research Center executive director, and ReImagine Appalachia co-director Stephen Herzenberg said, ” “America needs to upgrade existing rail, lay new rail lines in Appalachia and across the country, and manufacture green locomotives in our state and region. This study shows that scaling up green locomotive production in Erie to feed a sustainable U.S. rail system could be a game-changer for economic opportunity in Northwest PA.”

During the press conference, Carl Rosen, General President, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) said, “All across the country there are rail yard workers and rail yard communities who are suffering the adverse health effects of old, dirty diesel locomotives. We are bringing together a national coalition of labor, community and environmental groups to demand that the railroads upgrade their locomotives, and to demand that the government do its job to make sure the railroads are not making people sick. Green locomotives will clean up pollution, address the climate crisis, and bring thousands of good, union jobs to Western Pennsylvania.”  

Scott Slawson, President, UE Local 506 added, “The members of UE Local 506 are the most skilled locomotive-building workforce in America, and our facility in Erie has significant underutilized capacity. Our workforce and our facility are ready to build the green locomotives that our country needs, and this study shows that building those locomotives in Erie will ensure a bright future for our region. We hope that our employer, Wabtec, will work with us to build green locomotives in Erie and make that future a reality.”  

For a video of the press conference, click here`

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

The 99% Pennsylvania is a campaign of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, focused on advancing federal policies that will benefit the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians. Ali Feldman is the federal organizing associate for the campaign.

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