Report Provides Roadmap to Grow Manufacturing Jobs

The manufacturing sector has actually posted employment gains in two consecutive years.  It currently employs 574,000 Pennsylvanians, but Governor Tom Corbett says we can do better.  Corbett and key members of his administration unveiled the Governor’s Manufacturing Advisory Council report at four, statewide events Tuesday afternoon.

The 24-member panel decided upon 15-recommendations that range from better career and technical education, to a statewide energy plan and tax policy changes.  “We have a cross-agency, public-private team of folks working on implementation going forward,” says Team Pennsylvania Foundation president & CEO Matt Zieger.  “So those [recommendations] that are not underway, will be underway very soon.”

Team PA has been funding and facilitating the council since Governor Corbett created it late last year.  Zieger says the report is unique because many of the recommendations aren’t just about how the state can help the manufacturers, but how the manufacturers can help themselves.

One of the key issues raised in the report is the “skills gap” that was reported by 82% of Pennsylvania’s 15,000 manufacturers.

“My goal is straight forward; a healthy economy and a job for every Pennsylvanian that wants one,” Governor Corbett said.  “This report provides a solid roadmap for us to work together and achieve that goal.”

The statewide jobless rate now stands at 7.9%, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor & Industry.

“Keystone Works” to Launch This Fall

Guidelines are being drafted for a new program called Keystone Works, which could help unemployed Pennsylvanians find a job more quickly.  “Keystone Works will provide an opportunity for the unemployed worker to receive training with a business while continuing to receive their UC benefits, at the same time incentivizing the employers to hopefully hire these unemployed individuals,” says Michelle Staton, deputy secretary for workforce development with the state Department of Labor & Industry.

The worker benefits by staying connected to the workforce, obtaining new skills and receiving job-specific training in a high-priority occupation.  Even if they are not hired at the end of the eight-week program, Staton tells us the new skills will make it easier to find work elsewhere.

The employer benefits because the program helps off-set the cost of training, and offers incentives of up to $1,500 for every trainee they hire.

The new state budget includes $2.5-million dollars to cover the cost of those incentives.  Staton says their goal is to train 2,000 workers in the first year of “Keystone Works.”  The Department of Labor and Industry will be developing a website specifically for individuals and companies interested in Keystone Works.

The statewide jobless rate currently stands at 7.5%.  July’s numbers are expected to be released later this week.

Negotiators Agree to Budget Framework, Tax Credit

Governor Tom Corbett has repeatedly said that June 30th means something to him.  With Wednesday night’s announcement that he and top Republican lawmakers have agreed to a $27.656-billion dollar budget framework, it appears that Pennsylvania is on pace to meet a second consecutive budget deadline.

Neither Corbett nor the legislative leaders were willing to discuss the details, as rank-and-file lawmakers are still being briefed on the specifics and a few details are still being finalized.  However, $27.656-billion is the same spend number the state Senate used when it passed a budget bill in May.

One of the Senate’s top priorities at the time was the restoration of proposed 20% cuts to the State System of Higher Education and proposed 30% cuts to the three big state-related universities (Penn State, Pitt and Temple).  The planned restorations came with a promise from those universities to keep next year’s tuition increases below the Consumer Price Index.  Whether these restorations made it into the final deal has yet to be confirmed.

We do know that 40.3% of the budget is comprised of education spending and 38.9% is spent on social services.  So, any movement in the spending plan – either up or down – will likely come from those two categories.

In addition to the budget framework, negotiators have confirmed agreement on an ethane tax credit that’s designed to lure a massive new petrochemical plant to western Pennsylvania.  “We are investing I believe… in a new industrial revolution in Pennsylvania,” Governor Corbett said earlier on Wednesday.  “We are investing in the opportunity for thousands of Pennsylvanians to have a good job.”

The American Chemistry Council estimates 10,000 construction jobs, 400 direct plant jobs in 17,000 spinoff jobs in chemical and manufacturing industries if the proposed Shell Oil petrochemical plant comes to fruition in Pennsylvania.

While Corbett was joined at the capitol by a large & diverse group of tax credit supporters, critics are wary of giving taxpayer money away to big industry.  One of those critics is state Rep. Jesse White (D-Washington).  He’s already proposed an alternative that would fund the incentives through a surcharge on Pennsylvania’s natural gas wells.  “We should not be socializing costs while privatizing profits,” White said in a statement this week.

Governor Corbett Heads Overseas This Month

As Pennsylvania’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities begin winding down, Governor Tom Corbett’s international trade mission will be ramping up.  Corbett is leading a trade mission to France and Germany, two of the state’s most important trade partners

“The goals are to establish a stronger tie with our trading partners that we already have that do business here in Pennsylvania from France and Germany, but also to look for more people to come over and do business here in Pennsylvania.” Corbett said on Radio PA’s Ask the Governor program. 

Combined, French and German companies already employ 53,400 people in the Keystone State.  Corbett thinks they can entice more foreign companies to invest in Pennsylvania based on its cheap power supplies and strong workforce.  “We’re making ourselves much more business friendly than we were before,” he adds. 

Site Selection magazine has ranked Pennsylvania third in the nation with 453 new or expanded corporate facilities in 2011, according to a recent news release from the governor’s office.  That’s an increase of more than 100 projects from 2010. 

Corbett will be joined on the trade mission by a delegation of Pennsylvania business leaders.  The mission is being privately funded and organized by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation.

A Bipartisan Attempt at Business Tax Reform

Supporters say they’ve found a solid middle ground on business tax reform in Pennsylvania.  “You’ve got folks who support the tax cut side.  You’ve got folks who support only the Delaware Loophole side,” says House Republican Policy Chair Dave Reed (R-Indiana).  “But merging the two together may be the right equation to get the ball over the goal line.” 

The bill Reed’s pushing alongside Democrat Eugene DePasquale (D-York) would gradually lower the state’s corporate net income tax from 9.99% to 6.99%, over the course of six years.  It would also close the so-called Delaware Loophole with an “expense add-back” provision, which Reed says would target specific companies that are using the loophole with the sole purpose of avoiding paying their Pennsylvania taxes. 

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale

Rep. DePasquale says Pennsylvania’s high CNI is a black eye on the state, which is stifling job growth.  “I believe… that this will lead to actually more revenue in the future because you will have greater job growth.”  Both of the prime sponsors say their effort is aimed at creating a fair tax climate in the state.   

The “expense add-back” approach may be new to Pennsylvania, but supporters say it’s already used by 23 other states.  At an unrelated capitol news conference, Senate Democrats expressed their continued support through closing the Delaware Loophole through combined reporting.  “There is a way to transition to mandatory combined reporting in a way that would allow for revenue neutrality because we’d be expanding the base,” says Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna).

Getting the Most of Your Holiday Job Search

The holiday season can be a mixed bag for job seekers, according to Kevin Collins, Assistant Director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Career and Professional Development Center.  While the job boards may not be flush with openings this time of year, job seekers can take advantage of the lull.  “The best way to put it would be to reconnect, retool and reconsider,” Collins says. 

To reconnect could mean reaching out to contacts you’ve made over the course of the year.  “This is an ideal time to be doing that because, if it’s a business contact, a lot of times their inbox is not getting slammed like it is during the rest of the year.”

To retool, Collins tells us, is to evaluate your resume, cover letters, etc. to ensure they’re reflecting the skills and the message that you want to convey to potential employers.

To reconsider means just that.  If your job search is too narrow, you may want to start considering other industries or geographic regions. 

While Collins emphasizes networking, he warns of mixing your messages too much over the holiday season.  “You don’t want to send Christmas cards out to people and have your resume in it,” Collins quips.  “It’s a little too over the top.” 

Nearly a half-million Pennsylvanians are currently unemployed, according to the latest data from the state Department of Labor & Industry.  The statewide jobless rate has improved for two consecutive months; it now stands at 7.9%.

Unemployment Report Shows PA Job Growth

More people have jobs, and fewer people are looking for work.  That combination has dropped the statewide unemployment rate to 8.1% — down two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month.  It snaps a string of four consecutive months in which Pennsylvania’s jobless rate was moving in the wrong direction.  “It’s a big relief actually to see across the board good news,” says Keystone Research Center Labor Economist Mark Price.

Labor force data released by the Department of Labor & Industry finds that resident unemployment rose by 30,000, while the number of out-of-work Pennsylvanians fell by 11,000.  A separate state report on non-farm jobs cites growth in eight of 11 supersectors.  The biggest gains were in Leisure & Hospitality, which added 4,000 jobs for the month of October.  

Price says the public sector stopped shedding jobs in October, contributing to the positive report.  “We’re still seeing jobs gains in the private sector, and no losses in the public sector combine to make this a better month than we’ve seen in a while,” Price tells Radio PA.  While the unemployment rate hit its recent peak at 8.8% in early 2010, the Keystone State is now out of the woods yet.  Price says it needs to add another 237,000 to get back to what economists would call full employment.