Experts say the region has gained 37,800 jobs over the last year but not at the same pace as other comparable cities around the nation.By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The October jobs report out on Friday showed more Americans back to work and the lowest unemployment rate since the pandemic began.

It was a surprise to many economists who had not expected such good news. But last month over 531,000 new jobs were created, bringing the nation’s unemployment down to 4.6 percent, a pandemic low.

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Led by a surge of jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry as Americans try to get back to normal life, some 2.4 million jobs lost during the pandemic have been restored this year.

Dr. Heather Boushey on the White House Council of Economic Advisors said the good numbers were a result of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan to vaccinate Americans and provide unemployment benefits and advanced child tax credits to millions so they could weather the economic storm.

“It’s because we’ve gotten shots in arms, gotten that vaccine out there, and we made sure during this recession, unlike many others, we made sure families had the resources they need while they were dealing with unemployment or reduced hours, and businesses had what they need because of COVID,” Boushey told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Friday.

But the overall growth in the Pittsburgh region is lagging behind in job growth for the last four months.

“The overall growth in the Pittsburgh region has been relatively slow in the past few months. We’ve been kind of stuck at 94 percent of our pre-pandemic employment levels,” says Jim Futrell, vice president of research with the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development.

Futrell, who studies the numbers, says the region has gained 37,800 jobs over the last year but not at the same pace as other comparable cities around the nation, leaving us with higher unemployment.

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“In September we were at about one percent higher. In many cases, we do tend to trend a little bit higher than the nation. One of the important things, too, is that we were lower than the state as a whole,” says Futrell. “In the state of Pennsylvania, (unemployment is) about 6.2 percent. We were at 5.8.”

On another front, the national numbers show wage growth of nearly 5 percent over the last year. But Dr. Boushey says there’s an inequality in who is getting those higher wages, which is why President Biden is pushing his Build Back Better policies.

“It’s those policies that are going to improve the wages of the lowest-paid of some of the lowest-paid workers in our economy. These are the wages of child care workers, preschool workers, home care workers, and the like,” says Boushey.

But Futrell says it’s the lower-income hourly jobs that are seeing pay raises.

“The increases are being more driven by the lower end of the salary range. That’s where your labor shortages tend to be more profound. Those were the areas that were most impacted by the pandemic recession,” he says.

In a free-market economy, the good news of low unemployment and fewer workers to fill the jobs should lead to pay raises, but that usually lags behind.

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