Jobs, Corbett & the Legislature

Pennsylvania's just-out new jobs report shows the state's unemployment rate inching up while the national rate, though higher, remains flat.

The state rate rose to 8.3 percent for September. That's the fourth straight month of increase and represents 15,800 jobs lost.

While the national rate remained at 9.1 percent, this slow climb in Pennsylvania could signal trouble ahead for the Corbett administration and the legislature.

Why? Two reasons. The cut-cut government approach taken by the governor and legislative leaders is popular on paper (the Guv's polling numbers rose after his austere budget was enacted) but could become less so in real life if the jobless trend here continues.

The progressive, left-leaning Keystone Research Center notes more than half of the 15,800 the jobs lost were government jobs as school districts and local municipalities are forced to lay off workers due to state cuts.

As a result, according to the center's chief economist Stephen Herzenberg, the so-called Pennsylvania Advantage, the amount by which the U.S. rate exceeds the state rate, is smaller than it has been in three years.

Democrats in the legislature continue to push for a state jobs plan with incentives to hiring. They did so again this week saying the Republican legislature and the Corbett administration has "failed to lead" on jobs.

And this while sounds like a sort of flip-side echo of the national fight in which the Obama administration calls for a jobs bill while blaming the Congress for just saying "no," there's an extra factor at work in Pennsylvania.

As state job numbers worsen (and especially if they continue to), Democrats can argue that Republicans here are solely focused on ideological initiatives -- school vouchers, selling the State Stores, protecting energy companies, pushing for changes in election rules that favor the GOP -- while more and more people lose their livelihood.

And this argument of ideology versus action could well become the centerpiece of next year's elections, not only on the national level but also in legislative races.