Pa. employment recovery remains 1 year away

In this Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 photo taken in Walpole, Mass., an advertisement in the classified section of the Boston Herald newspaper calls attention to possible employment opportunities. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply for a fourth straight week, a sign that the job market may be improving. The Labor Department said Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, that weekly applications for unemployment benefits fell 29,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 343,000, the lowest in two months. It is the second-lowest total this year. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The end of the employment cliff for Pennsylvania is finally in sight, according to the economists at IHS Global Insight.

On Monday, the Lexington, Mass., firm issued its latest forecast of when states will return to “peak employment” levels. Peak employment refers to the level of employment attained by a state before a recession wreaks its job-killing havoc.

Pennsylvania is now expected to surpass its peak employment level next year during the first quarter, IHS Global Insight says. New Jersey has a bit longer to wait -- fourth quarter 2015. Delaware, meanwhile, remains two years away from a full recovery.

Six lucky states have already surpassed previous peak levels: North Dakota, Alaska, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New York. And much as everyone in this region might wish for a job market that’s hopping in 2013 rather than a year or two years from now, it could be worse: Nevada, Michigan, and Rhode Island are expected to be the last to recover, in 2018 or later.

If you build it …

Pennsylvania nearly won a beauty pageant held by those whose business it is to find new sites for companies relocating or expanding.

Site Selection magazine said the Keystone State, with 430 projects in 2012, finished behind Texas, which had a whopping 761 projects, and Ohio with 491.

Deals for manufacturers and other employers are tracked by Conway Data Inc. Those in commercial real estate and economic development pay close attention to the rankings.

Interestingly, most of Pennsylvania’s projects came from manufacturing, while 194 were for operations such as offices, distribution centers, and R&D centers.

And where were those deals struck? Well, 126 of them were destined for Pittsburgh, which ranked sixth nationally, and 124 for Philadelphia, ranked seventh. (If you guessed Houston was No. 1 among big metro areas, give yourself a lone star.)

It was the second straight year Pennsylvania was ranked third, and the Corbett administration was quick to break out the “We’re No. 3” foam fingers.