- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania’s jobless rate dropped in December to its lowest point in five years as more people left the workforce, and payrolls fell even though a higher proportion of people remaining in the workforce reported being employed, according to figures released Friday.

The state Department of Labor and Industry said that Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.9 percent in December, the fourth straight monthly drop since the rate was 7.7 percent in August.

The national rate was 6.7 percent in December.

Pennsylvania’s labor force, or the number of people working or searching for work, shrank in December by 15,000 to just over 6.44 million, more than 100,000 below the record reached a year ago.

The number of employed people rose by 12,000 to 6 million, about 40,000 below June’s record. Unemployment fell by 27,000 to 443,000, the lowest tally in five years.

In a separate survey of employers, the department estimated that payrolls fell by 11,400 nonfarm jobs in December to 5.76 million, driven by losses in construction and education and health services. The trade, transportation and utilities sector, however, jumped by 8,000 in December.

Payrolls hit a record of 5.82 million in 2008, but shrank to below 5.6 million amid effects of the recession.

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