The State of Working Pennsylvania 2004

Howard Wial
Publication Date: 
September 1, 2004

In Pennsylvania, A Long, Slow Employment Recovery Since March 2001

In Pennsylvania recovery has been fickle at best. The Commonwealth lost 2,800 jobs in July brining four months of job growth to a halt. The state's manufacturing sector, in particular, has been experiencing an employment crisis, losing 151,600 jobs since March 2001, a loss of 17.9 percent.

Indeed, as The State of Working Pennsylvania 2004 documents, Pennsylvania’s economic recovery has taken longer and been even weaker than that of the nation as a whole.

  • In September 2004 Pennsylvania had 71,000, or 1.2%, fewer jobs than when the recession began in March of 2001.
  • Pennsylvania’s manufacturing job loss since January 2001 is 87 percent of the state’s manufacturing job loss over the last decade.
  • As of September 2004 the state is 205,000 short of the number of jobs needed to keep pace with growth of Pennsylvania’s working-age population.  The state’s job creation performance after the 2001 recession is the fourth worst since World War II.
  • Wages are down for every group except white women and African American men. The average wage of production workers was lower in September 2004 than in any of the three previous years. At $15.19 it is $1.18 an hour lower than the national average of $16.37.
  • Between March 2001 and July 2004 employment in the state’s high-wage industries has fallen by 5.6% while employment in low-wage industries has grown by 2.9%
  • The number of Pennsylvanians without health insurance has grown. In 2003, the last year for which data are available, 1.38 million Pennsylvanians did not have health insurance, a 40 percent increase since 1999.
  • Poverty in Pennsylvania increased substantially in the last year, especially for children.  The share of children in poverty increased from 11.6 to 15.5 percent from 2000 to 2003, a jump of one third. From 2002 to 2003 the share of children in poverty increased from 13.8 to 15.5 percent. The share of adults in poverty increased from 8.6 to 10.5 percent between 2000 and 2003.

These economic facts may help explain recent poll results that show Pennsylvanians increasingly dissatisfied with the way things are going in state.  A poll conducted by earlier in August found that 48% of respondents identified economic issues as the most important problem facing the state. The number of respondents dissatisfied with current conditions rose to 49% from 44% a year ago.

More extensive summaries of SWP 2004 findings about the impact of recession and the recovery, job quality and wages, regional differences, and recommendations for public policy are available on this site.