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Labor Report

General Assembly Enacts Coronavirus Relief for Workers, Employers

Senator Tartaglione joined her Senate colleagues and members of the Pennsylvania House as they unanimously adopted comprehensive COVID-19/coronavirus relief legislation for workers and employers throughout the Commonwealth.

COVID-19Both chambers adopted an amended version of House Bill 68, which includes a provision that enables displaced workers to obtain unemployment compensation sooner, and a provision that relieves employers of unemployment benefits charges in instances where the coronavirus emergency caused the employee layoff. Governor Tom Wolf signed HB 68 and three other coronavirus relief measures into law on March 27.

“Just as the thousands of individuals afflicted by this illness need time and resources to recover, displaced workers and their employers need time and resources to get back on their feet again,” Senator Tartaglione said during the Senate’s remote legislative session. “This legislation provides them with the time and resources they need by helping to mitigate the financial setbacks caused by the coronavirus.”

As amended, HB 68 codifies the Wolf administration’s waiver of the one-week waiting period usually required for displaced workers before they may apply for unemployment benefits. The waiting period waiver will remain in effect for the duration of the coronavirus emergency declaration. The bill also codifies the administration’s suspension of the work search and registration requirements of the Commonwealth’s unemployment compensation law during the emergency.

To ensure that displaced workers receive comprehensive and timely information about the availability of unemployment benefits, the amended HB 68 requires employers to notify employees upon separation from the company of the availability of unemployment compensation, the employee’s ability to file a benefits claim, website information for filing a claim, and the information that the employee must provide to submit a claim.

The amended bill further requires the Department of Labor & Industry to provide companies relief from unemployment benefit charges in cases where the employee separation resulted directly from coronavirus or from restrictions implemented by the government in response to the pandemic. In addition, the bill extends the window for employers to request full relief from benefit charges from 15 days to 21 days.

During the same legislative session, the Senate and House adopted SB 751 that provides emergency relief directives and waivers of various school mandates found within the School Code or Department of Education regulations and policies for the current academic year as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.

Among other provisions, the bill ensures that all public school employees (including charters, intermediate units, and career and technical centers) continue to receive their normal compensation. This protection includes cafeteria and custodial staff and bus drivers.

Beyond the current academic year, the legislation creates a new permanent teacher evaluation system to replace the current system.

The Senate and House also adopted HB 1232, which provides emergency tax provisions, including the extension of the filing deadline for Pennsylvania personal income tax returns from April 15 to July 15, a date that matches the new deadline for federal returns.

Further, the Senate and House adopted SB 422, which moves the date of the Pennsylvania Primary Election from April 28 to June 2.

Congress Adopts Federal Stimulus Package Including Direct Payments, Unemployment Extension, Student Borrower Aid

Stimulus Check

The landmark $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill adopted by the U.S. Senate and House this week would deliver direct payments and jobless benefits to individuals, as well as money for states and a bailout fund for businesses affected by the pandemic, The New York Times reported.

President today signed the legislation, which was delivered to his desk on March 27. Under the bill, individuals would be eligible for direct one-time payments of up to $1,200, plus an additional $500 per dependent child. Jobless workers would be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits, plus a four-month enhancement of benefits.

Independent, self-employed, per diem, freelance, or gig economy workers would be eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time.

The package also includes $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses, as well as “a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis,” the Times reported. The bill would also send $100 billion in aid to hospitals.

Single adults with Social Security numbers who are U.S. residents and had an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less in 2019 would get the $1,200 one-time payment. Individuals filing as head of household would get the full payment if they earned $112,500 or less. Married couples with no children who earned $150,000 or less would get $2,400.

Individuals who were claimed as a dependent in 2019 are not eligible for payments.

Those who have not prepared a 2019 income tax return yet may use their 2018 returns or a 2019 Social Security statement.

Eligible taxpayers should expect to receive their payments within three weeks of the bill becoming law. Payments will be made through the method on file with the IRS. Recipients will also receive a paper notice.

The one-time payments are not subject to income tax.

Regarding enhanced unemployment benefits, the stimulus bill is intended to bridge the gap between what a worker was earning on the job and the amount that the state is paying to the worker in unemployment compensation.

Displaced part-time workers would be eligible for benefits under the federal bill, as will parents who were forced to quit their jobs because their child’s school has closed and daycare is unavailable.

The legislation does not allow for unemployment benefits for workers who can work from home and those who are receiving paid leave.
Workers who were already receiving unemployment benefits unrelated to the coronavirus would also be eligible for 13 additional weeks of coverage and the benefits enhancement.

For individuals who owe students loans, the bill allows most federal borrowers to suspend their loan payments for six months without incurring additional interest or penalties. The bill also provides $14 billion in funding for higher education institutions, half of which must be used for emergency grants to help students affected by the coronavirus crisis.

AFL-CIO Provides Online Resources for Workers and Employers During Coronavirus Emergency

The AFL-CIO has created a COVID-19 Pandemic Resources webpage to provide American workers with a consolidated reference point for guidance on many coronavirus-related topics.

The page provides links for information about prevention and treatment, as well as guidance for employers and travelers. The page links to information from the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Labor, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the World Health Organization, and the Government of Canada.

“The labor movement is working nonstop to protect the health and safety of all workers, including workers on the front lines of this public health emergency,” the AFL-CIO stated on the website. “We have trained, educated, and equipped our members with the tools they need to be safe on the job, but we are demanding additional urgent action to ensure employers implement comprehensive plans to protect frontline workers and reduce the risk of exposure to the general public.”

Participants in the Union Plus Mortgage, Credit Card, Personal Loan, or supplemental insurance programs may be eligible for additional hardship assistance and may visit Union Plus Hardship Help for eligibility details.

In addition, the Union Label & Service Trades Department of the AFL-CIO provides online listings of union-made products. As Americans stock up on supplies to sustain them through the COVID-19 emergency, they are asked to purchase goods produced by companies that support union labor. The listings include cleaning supplies, canned goods, personal care products, water, and beer and spirits.

Union-Made Quarantine

February 2020 PA Jobs Update

(Note: These figures do not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those figures will be included in the March 2020 reports. The National update for March 2020 will be released on April 3. The PA update for March 2020 will be released on April 17.)

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate saw no month-to-month change in February 2020, remaining at 4.7%. PA’s rate of 4.7% in January and February marks the highest it has been since November 2017. Over the month, unemployment rolls increased slightly by 1,854 individuals, with total unemployment rising to 308,883. State unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 308,883
  • Change Over Month –   UP   1,854
  • Change Over Year –   UP   44,567
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   DOWN   80,010
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   DOWN   35,553
  • Rate Change Over Month – no change
  • Rate Change Over Year –   UP   0.6%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   DOWN   1.3%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   DOWN   0.7%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, saw no change over the month (rate = unemployment / labor force). The labor force is the number of employed individuals combined with the number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Labor force growth can be a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. In February 2020, PA’s labor force grew for a second consecutive month, rising by 9,065 individuals, a combination of total employment* up by 7,211 and unemployment up by 1,854 as noted above, increasing to a new record high of 6.558 million.

Over Governor Wolf’s first term, the state’s labor force grew by 55,994 (employment +136,004 – unemployment -80,010) and is up 159,057 (employment +194,610 – unemployment -35,553) over both terms thus far. State labor force statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Labor Force – 6,558,209
  • Change Over Month –   UP   9,065
  • Change Over Year –   UP   105,547
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –    UP   55,994
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP   159,057

PA non-farm* job rolls rose by 15,600 in February 2020, marking a second consecutive month of growth and raising total non-farm employment to a record high of 6,112,200. Year-over-year, the commonwealth has added 64,600 new non-farm jobs. Over Governor Wolf’s first term (Jan. 2015 – Jan. 2019), a total of 238,700 new non-farm jobs were added, roughly 88,000 more than were added over the four-year term of the prior Corbett Administration. The addition of 238,700 non-farm jobs over Governor Wolf’s first term ranked the commonwealth 30th out of 50 states for new percentage growth, an improvement from it’s ranking of 48th in the same survey over Governor Corbett’s term. Thus far through Governor Wolf’s second term, the commonwealth has added an additional 59,600 non-farm jobs, ranking it 22nd out of 50 states for new percentage growth over this period and bringing total growth over both of his terms to 298,300. State non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 6,112,200
  • Change Over Month –   UP   15,600
  • Change Over Year –   UP   64,600
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf 1st Term –   UP   238,700
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP    298,300


PA County Unemployment Rate Ranking
(Source: PA Dept. of Labor & Industry; January 2020 State Rate: 4.7%)

Rank County Jan. 2020 Rate Dec. 2019 Rate Jan. 2019 Rate
T-1 Adams 3.4% 3.4% 2.8%
T-1 Centre 3.4% 3.3% 3.0%
T-1 Chester 3.4% 3.5% 2.8%
T-4 Cumberland 3.6% 3.7% 2.9%
T-4 Lancaster 3.6% 3.6% 3.0%
6 Montgomery 3.7% 3.8% 3.1%
T-7 Montour 3.8% 4.1% 3.3%
T-7 Perry 3.8% 4.3% 3.1%
T-9 Franklin 4.0% 4.0% 3.3%
T-9 Juniata 4.0% 5.0% 3.7%
T-9 Union 4.0% 4.4% 3.2%
T-9 York 4.0% 4.0% 3.4%
T-13 Bucks 4.1% 4.2% 3.3%
T-13 Lebanon 4.1% 4.1% 3.5%
T-15 Butler 4.2% 4.5% 3.4%
T-15 Dauphin 4.2% 4.4% 3.4%
T-17 Allegheny 4.3% 4.5% 3.6%
T-17 Delaware 4.3% 4.4% 3.6%
T-19 Berks 4.6% 4.6% 3.8%
T-19 Lehigh 4.6% 5.2% 4.1%
T-19 Northampton 4.6% 5.0% 3.9%
22 Westmoreland 4.7% 5.0% 3.8%
T-23 Blair 4.8% 4.8% 3.6%
T-23 Susquehanna 4.8% 4.9% 3.5%
T-23 Washington 4.8% 5.1% 3.7%
T-26 Beaver 4.9% 5.2% 3.8%
T-26 Bedford 4.9% 5.8% 3.6%
T-26 Bradford 4.9% 5.1% 3.9%
T-26 Erie 4.9% 4.7% 4.1%
T-26 Mifflin 4.9% 5.2% 4.1%
31 Columbia 5.0% 5.5% 4.0%
T-32 Crawford 5.2% 5.4% 4.1%
T-32 Fulton 5.2% 6.5% 3.1%
T-32 Lackawanna 5.2% 5.5% 4.2%
T-32 Lycoming 5.2% 5.1% 4.3%
T-32 Mercer 5.2% 5.7% 4.1%
T-32 Snyder 5.2% 6.1% 3.5%
T-32 Warren 5.2% 5.2% 4.1%
T-32 Wyoming 5.2% 5.7% 4.3%
40 Jefferson 5.3% 6.0% 3.8%
T-41 Carbon 5.4% 6.3% 4.5%
T-41 Schuylkill 5.4% 6.0% 4.6%
T-41 Wayne 5.4% 5.6% 4.2%
T-44 Indiana 5.5% 6.2% 4.3%
T-44 Venango 5.5% 5.5% 4.1%
T-46 Cambria 5.6% 5.6% 4.5%
T-46 Clarion 5.6% 5.8% 4.1%
T-46 Clinton 5.6% 6.2% 5.1%
T-46 Somerset 5.6% 6.2% 4.2%
T-50 Clearfield 5.7% 6.2% 4.2%
T-50 Monroe 5.7% 5.6% 4.8%
T-50 Tioga 5.7% 6.2% 4.8%
T-53 Armstrong 5.8% 6.3% 4.1%
T-53 Philadelphia 5.8% 5.9% 5.1%
T-55 Greene 5.9% 6.1% 4.2%
T-55 Northumberland 5.9% 6.4% 4.9%
T-57 Lawrence 6.0% 6.1% 4.4%
T-57 Luzerne 6.0% 6.3% 5.0%
T-57 Pike 6.0% 6.3% 4.9%
60 Huntingdon 6.4% 7.5% 5.0%
T-61 Elk 6.5% 7.2% 3.4%
T-61 Fayette 6.5% 6.9% 5.0%
T-61 McKean 6.5% 6.7% 4.3%
64 Sullivan 6.7% 7.0% 4.7%
65 Cameron 7.3% 8.0% 4.6%
66 Potter 7.4% 7.3% 5.3%
67 Forest 7.9% 8.0% 5.6%