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Pennsylvania jobless rate falls to new post-recession low, 1st time below 5 percent since 2008

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HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell below the 5 percent mark for the first time since 2008, dropping by three-tenths of a percentage point in December for the third straight month, the state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday.

The new data showed the rate in Pennsylvania continuing a dramatic fall, even though the size of payrolls and the labor force have changed little in recent months.

The seasonally adjusted rate in December was 4.8 percent, Pennsylvania's new post-recession low. That was down from 5.1 percent in November and 5.7 percent in September. The rate was last at 4.8 percent in March 2008. Pennsylvania's recessionary high was 8.7 percent in 2010.

The U.S. rate is currently 5.6 percent.

In a survey of households, the department estimates that the labor force, or the number of people working or looking for work, fell by 1,000 to remain about 130,000 people below its 2012 peak. Employment rose by 13,000, climbing closer to 6.1 million, while unemployment fell by 14,000 to 309,000.

A separate survey of employers found that non-farm payrolls grew by about 8,000, or just above 5.8 million. Payrolls fell in construction and professional and business services, while the biggest payroll gains were in manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, education and health services and trade, transportation and utilities, according to the new state data.

However, Pennsylvania's payrolls remain below pre-recession levels, while the nation's payrolls surpassed the pre-recession high in May and hit another record high in December.

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