Butler County's jobless rate continued its rise in February, growing 0.3 percentage points to 6.7%, as more residents look to return to the workforce.
Although the county's unemployment rate remained the lowest in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, its growth — of 0.3 points — was above average, as the area as a whole held steady from its January number, remaining at 7.5% in February, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.
Only Armstrong and Fayette counties — at 0.5 and 0.4 percentage points, respectively — had higher rates of jobless growth in February. Neighboring Allegheny County's 7.5% rate remained unchanged from a month prior, and Beaver County's rate grew just 0.1 percentage point to 8.6%.
The growth in unemployment, however, may not be a sign for pessimism. Despite the higher rate in February than January, 1,000 more people were employed during the “key week” of the month — in February, that was the week ending Feb. 13 — than had been working in a month prior. The higher rate can be attributed to 1,400 more workers entering the labor force, rather than a decrease in jobs.
That trend was similar in neighboring counties. In Lawrence County, for instance, 300 more individuals were employed in February than in January, but the county's jobless rate grew 0.3 percentage points because the labor force grew by 500 workers.
Among nearby counties, only Mercer County, which is not in the Pittsburgh statistical area, bucked that trend. That county's labor force remained steady at 47,800, but 100 fewer residents were employed in February than in January, growing that county's rate 0.1 percentage points to 8.7%.
Other data, including initial and continued unemployment compensation claims, show signs of economic recovery as well. Unemployment claims in Butler County dropped roughly 13% between Jan. 16 and Feb. 13, the same period included in the jobless data, while across the state they fell just 7.6%.
That trend has continued through the end of March. In Butler County, the final week in which there were more total unemployment compensation claims than there were a week prior was Jan. 30, and on average more than 200 fewer workers have filed such claims since the week ending March 6.
In fact, during the week ending March 13, more than 300 fewer workers — about 7% of those claiming jobless benefits — filed for unemployment than the week before.