The unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent in November, the largest one-month drop since 1983. It was the second straight monthly drop after a six-month run-up, although it remains above the national unemployment rate of 7.7 percent. Pennsylvania's jobless rate hit a recessionary peak of 8.7 percent in 2010.
A separate survey of Pennsylvania employers found payrolls inched up by 1,900, hovering around 5.75 million nonfarm jobs. Employers have added more than 180,000 jobs since the recessionary low in February 2010, although payrolls remain smaller than they were in 2006.
Labor economist Mark Price, of the Harrisburg-based Keystone Research Center, noted Friday that the employer survey and the households survey measure different populations and can tell different stories about the economy when viewed over a shorter period of time.
He said the economy is recovering, but Pennsylvania is not seeing a level of employment growth that will consistently produce big drops in unemployment in the coming months. Rather, Pennsylvania is more likely to see a gradual and slow decline in the unemployment rate, Price said.
The household survey found that the number of unemployed dropped by 16,000. Employment rose by 22,000 and the number of people working or seeking work grew by 6,000.
The growth in the number of Pennsylvanians looking for work, particularly in the Pittsburgh region, is a sign of confidence in the economy and is outpacing other states in the Northeast, Price said.