New figures bring good news on jobs nationally and locally

Posted: April 02, 2011

In signs of an improving economy, the nation's employment expanded by 216,000 jobs, the unemployment rate slipped to 8.8 percent, and Kathy Snead, a laid-off legal secretary, has a job interview Monday.

The official statistics come from the U.S. Labor Department, which released its closely watched "Employment Situation" report Friday.

Snead received four phone calls in four days last week about job possibilities. "That hasn't happened the whole time I've been looking," she said.

What Snead, 56, of South Philadelphia, is experiencing in her job search dovetails nicely with Friday's encouraging government report. "I think things are going in the right direction, but slowly," she said.

Stephen Jurash, head of the Manufacturing Alliance of Philadelphia, agrees but is more optimistic.

"We're not talking recession anymore. We're talking recovery," he said, adding that city manufacturers had openings for skilled welders and for machinists.

Even so, the average length of unemployment continued to rise - to 39 weeks from 37.1 weeks in February - and the percentage of those unemployed 27 weeks or more now stands at 45.5 percent, up from 43.9 percent. The unemployed number 13.5 million.

Snead noticed that, as well.

"That's 6.1 million people," she said, describing the long-term unemployed.

Snead's background is a bit unusual. She has an undergraduate degree in labor economics and got as far as her doctoral dissertation before a divorce and the need to support her children got in the way of her studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I think we should be doing more to help the long-term unemployed," she said. "People think there is something wrong with these people, and that just feeds on itself. A lot of them are in industries that have shed jobs. They may need training to do something else."

Snead lost her job in January 2008. Her field, law, is still down, losing 2,900 jobs in March.

February's unemployment rate was 8.9 percent.

Overall, the private sector contributed 230,000 jobs for the month. Nationally, manufacturing grew by 17,000 jobs, the Labor Department said.

The national news is reflected in Philadelphia, according to data from, which tracks online job postings in the Philadelphia area. March's area job postings were up 40 percent from last year, with the year-to-year increases in construction, transportation and material moving, production, installation and repair, and education.

Whether the education gains will remain, given threatened government funding cutbacks for colleges and public schools, is still an unknown. Government hiring fell in March, with 18,900 jobs lost nationally at the state and local government level, the Labor Department said.

David M. Schaaf, business manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 380 in Collegeville, confirms - but just barely - Monster's data about increases in construction, which has been walloped in the recession.

"I'm seeing some activity, but it's slow," Schaaf said. Unemployment in his local is relatively low, he said, but he still has electricians out of work for nine months.

Local 380's work at area pharmaceutical companies is way down, but electricians will build a new 146-bed hospital in East Norriton Township.

"That's going to put 50 to 60 people to work in the next month or so," he said.

Nationally, construction hiring declined slightly, by 1,000 jobs - still down, but the loss is less than it has been.

Hiring is up in nearly every category. Strongest were business and professional services, adding 78,000 jobs. Accountants, architects, engineers, and computer systems people were hired.

Nonfarm payroll unemployment in February was revised up to 194,000 from 192,000.

Job fairs provide their own category of economic barometer, and the job fair for veterans held Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field was no exception. Last year, 30 businesses came. This year, 40 employers set up booths.

At 9 percent in March, the unemployment rate for veterans has been running higher than for the population as a whole. The unemployment rate for veterans who served from September 2001 to now runs even higher - 10.9 percent in March.

Soldiers coming out of active duty have not had as much time to develop the kind of job networks that typically lead to employment, explained Matthew Murphy, chief operating officer for Recruit Military, an Ohio company that produced Thursday's job fair and runs similar ones around the nation.

March turned out to be a mixed month for the Cosey family. At the beginning of the month, father and son were out of work. They described their situation in an interview in The Inquirer.

Bob Cosey, 53, an electrician, had been out of work since October 2008, except for a few odd jobs. His son, Todd, 21, lost his job setting gravestones in January.

The situation got so bad that the family had to sell their home and move in with his wife's sister in Mantua, Gloucester County. The Inquirer series led to an interview for Bob Cosey, who began work March 28 at the University of the Arts. "It's very exciting to be back at work," he said.

His son is still looking.

Job Gains/Losses

March changes from February, by industry

Industry Jobs created, cut


business services +78,000


health +45,000


hospitality +37,000

Retail +17,700

Manufacturing +17,000

Construction -1,000


services -4,000


government -15,000

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or

The Looking for Work series continues on Mondays at

Scroll down to read about Kathy Snead and the Cosey family.


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