- Associated Press - Friday, May 22, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania recorded its biggest one-month jobs gain in nearly two decades in April, while its unemployment rate stabilized after rising for three straight months, the state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday.

An April survey of employers showed that seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls grew by 27,000 jobs, the biggest one-month jump since February 1996, the department said. That brought the total payrolls figure to a record of nearly 5.85 million.

The biggest increase was in construction, which added 10,000 jobs, while the education and health services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sector each added more than 4,000 jobs. The only sectors to shrink during the month were mining and logging and information services. The payrolls figures are preliminary and could be revised next month.

Labor economist Mark Price, with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, said the data lack details but the jump in construction activity is likely fueled by a 2013 state law that raised gas taxes and motorist fees to boost road and bridge work.

Meanwhile, he also sees April’s increase as a sign that the national economy will inject a steadier period of job and wage growth into Pennsylvania.

“It reflects, more than anything else, that we’re in the right part of the business cycle, the stronger part,” Price said.

Meanwhile, April’s unemployment rate remained unchanged from March, at 5.3 percent, after three straight months of seeing the rate increase. Pennsylvania hit a post-recession low of 5 percent unemployment in December after reaching a recessionary high of 8.7 percent in 2010.

The national rate for April was 5.4 percent.

A separate survey of households showed the state’s labor force - the number of people working or looking for work - expanded by 19,000, moving closer to 6.4 million people. Employment grew by 14,000 to creep above 6.05 million people, while unemployment also inched up to 340,000.

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