2008-12-25 / Correspondents' Notes

Pa. Loses 26,000 Jobs In Nov., Most Since 1996

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania lost 26,000 nonfarm jobs in November, the biggest monthly drop in more than a decade, the state Department of Labor and Industry said Thursday.

The state's jobless rate rose three-tenths of a percentage point last month to 6.1 percent. That is the highest unemployment rate since 1994, but it still falls below the national rate for the seventh straight month.

The national jobless rate is 6.7 percent.

The state now has 5.76 million nonfarm jobs, the fewest since August 2006.

Officials said they are worried that the state's jobless benefits fund may not be able to keep up with the rising number of unemployment claims. The unemployment insurance benefits fund has declined by $400 million to $1.2 billion since December 2007.

The state might have to borrow money from the federal government or another state fund by next spring as a stopgap measure, Labor Department spokesman Troy Thompson said.

Gov. Ed Rendell has formed an advisory committee to examine ways to bolster the fund in the long term. Possible solutions include reducing benefits or increasing taxes on businesses or employees. Any tax increase would need state lawmakers' approval.

Rendell said Thursday that states will need the federal government's help to revive their economies and continue providing assistance to the unemployed. He noted that the government has amassed a surplus in federal unemployment taxes collected from employers across the country.

"I urge President Bush and Congress to immediately return those funds to the states to help us provide adequate services and benefits to an increased number of unemployed workers,'' Rendell said.

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