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Labor Report


“I’d like to wish all Pennsylvanians a Happy Memorial Day 2020. Although we must modify our usual holiday activities this weekend, please take time to remember America’s fallen military who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. Please join me in honoring them.” – Senator Tartaglione

Look for These Union-Made Products During Your Memorial Day Shopping

As families plan their Memorial Day activities while practicing COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, including social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment, the AFL-CIO recommends the use of these union-made products.

The list has been compiled by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor's website Labor 411Union Plus; the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM); and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

The recommended products include Weber grills; Ballpark, Butterball, Hebrew National, Hormel, and Oscar Meyer hot dogs; Frito-Lay and Flipz snacks; Breyers, Good Humor, Prairie Farms, and Tillamook ice cream; Rubbermaid coolers; Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Pabst, and Samuel Adams beer; Artflag flags; Battleship, Candy Land, Clue, Connect Four, Monopoly, Twister, and Yahtzee games; and Coppertone and Bain de Soleil sunscreen.

Visit the Union Made in American Barbecue page for information.

PA Labor & Industry Launches PUA Help Line, Continues to Resolve Backdated Claims

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is continuing to enhance the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system that it launched on April 18 to administer the new federal unemployment benefits program for self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and business owners.

On May 22, the Department launched the PUA customer service line and began receiving a large influx of calls. Some callers received an erroneous “call cannot be completed” message, indicating that the system was unavailable. The system is available but is experiencing high demand. Those callers should try to call again or submit their question via email.

The Department emphasized that the PUA line is NOT intended for individuals who are claiming traditional Unemployment Compensation. Those folks may use the UC customer service line. Both numbers are listed below.

However, due to high call volumes on both lines, individuals with questions about their claims should use email as their first option. PUA questions should be sent to, while UC questions should be sent to

In addition, some PUA claimants may have experienced difficulty obtaining payments for backdated claims. The Department has issued the following guidance for those individuals:

“For PUA claimants still experiencing issues filing for backdated weekly certifications, we are working to ensure you will be able to file for those weeks. If you have not informed us about backdating issues regarding your claim, please reach out to us at with your full name and Claimant ID number. If you have already notified us, know that we are trying to get to your questions as quickly as possible. Please do not send multiple emails as this may delay resolution of your inquiry.”

All PUA claimants are reminded to continue filing their weekly certifications as their backdated claims are being resolved.

Further, the Department has issued the following guidance for PUA claimants who have chosen to receive payments via Direct Deposit or Debit Card:

“It has come to our attention that some PUA claimants are receiving their first payment via paper check through the U.S. Postal Service. In an effort to get these payments to you as quickly as possible, we're releasing them rather than waiting for the Direct Deposit or Debit Card to be initiated. This will only impact your first payment. Future payments will be made based on your payment selection. If you continue to receive a paper check but selected a different payment option, please confirm that you have selected either Direct Deposit or Debit Card and provided the required information.”

PUA claimants who wish to contact the Department regarding their Financial Determination letter should do so by email via Information regarding telephone assistance for PUA appeals will be posted at and on the Department’s social media pages when it becomes available.

Unemployment Payments Extended 13 Weeks for Eligible Beneficiaries

Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation (UC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) recipients who exhaust their initial 26 weeks of benefits may now claim benefits for up to 13 additional weeks under the Commonwealth’s newly launched Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.
Secretary Jerry Oleksiak of the Department of Labor & Industry announced the launch of the program on March 17.

PEUC is among the new COVID-19 unemployment benefits included in the federal CARES Act. Pennsylvania has now implemented all CARES Act unemployment programs and has paid out approximately $7.4 billion in benefits for all types of unemployment claims since mid-March.

The Department has sent information about the PEUC extended benefits program via email and U.S. Mail to all claimants who may qualify.

The PEUC eligibility period began on March 29, 2020, and will continue through December 26, 2020. Those who are currently collecting unemployment benefits will automatically be enrolled in the PEUC program when their initial 26 benefit weeks expire. Individuals whose benefit year has expired should file a new PEUC application online. Those who do not have personal access to the Internet should ask a relative or friend print the application, which can be completed by hand and mailed to the address printed on the application. Biweekly claims and payments work the same as with regular UC benefits.

PEUC payment amounts will be the same as the individual’s regular UC benefits rate. It is based on the claimant’s reported base-year earnings.

PEUC recipients will also be eligible for an additional $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which began on April 4, 2020, and will expire on July 25, 2020. FPUC payments will begin the week after the first PEUC payment.

Secretary Oleksiak also reported that since March 15, the Department has made 15.7 million unemployment payments totaling $7.9 billion, including $4.8 billion through regular UC and $2.85 through FPUC. The Department has also paid $290 million through PUA since May 7.

COVID-19 Restrictions to Ease in 25 Additional PA Counties on May 29

Governor Wolf has announced that Coronavirus-related restrictions will be eased in 25 Pennsylvania counties on May 29, including 17 counties that will be moved to the green phase of the Process to Reopen Pennsylvania and eight counties that will move from the red phase to yellow.

In addition, all counties that remain in the red phase on May 29 are expected to move to yellow by June 5.

The counties moving from red to yellow on May 29 will be Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill. The 17 counties moving to green, also on May 29, include Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.
The counties that are expected to move from red to yellow by June 5 are Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery, and Philadelphia.

“We know not only that we succeeded in slowing case growth, but that our actions, our collective decisions to stay at home and avoid social contact – we know that saved lives,” Govovernor Wolf said. “My stay-at-home order did exactly what it was intended to do: It saved lives and it bought us valuable time.”

In making the announcement, the Governor referred to a study by Drexel University that indicates that in Philadelphia alone, 60 days of staying at home resulted in more than 7,000 lives saved and prevented more than 68,000 people from needing hospitalization.
The yellow guidelines include the following:

  • Telework must continue where feasible;
  • Businesses with in-person operations must follow business and building safety orders;
  • Child care facilities may open while complying with guidance;
  • Congregate care and prison restrictions remain in place;
  • Schools remain closed for in-person instruction;
  • Stay-at-home order for aggressive mitigation is lifted;
  • Large gatherings of more than 25 are prohibited;
  • In-person retail is allowed, but curbside pickup and delivery is preferred;
  • Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, personal care services, and entertainment facilities including casinos remain closed;
  • Restaurants and bars are restricted to carry-out and delivery only, no dine-in service;
  • All businesses must follow CDC and Health Department guidance for social distancing and cleansing the workplace;

The green guidelines include the following:

  • Continued telework strongly encouraged;
  • Businesses with in-person operations must follow undated business and building safety orders;
  • Personal Care Services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only;
  • Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities (such as gyms and spas) open at 50% occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged;
  • Entertainment venues including casinos, theaters, and shopping malls open at 50% occupancy.
  • Construction activity may return to full capacity with continued implementation of COVID-19 safety protocols;
  • All businesses must follow CDC and Health Department guidance for social distancing and cleansing the workplace.

AFL-CIO Sues OSHA Seeking Emergency Temporary Standards for Workplace Safety

Citing the continuing threat of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, especially as states move toward reopening businesses, the AFL-CIO has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking to compel the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue emergency temporary standards (ETS) to protect U.S. workers.

“The petition demonstrates that thousands of workers have been infected on the job through exposure to infected patients, co-workers and unscreened members of the public,” the AFL-CIO stated in a news release. “As the economy reopens and people return to work, person-to-person contact will increase and health experts predict the already shocking number of infections and deaths among workers will rise.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said: “It’s truly a sad day in America when working people must sue the organization tasked with protecting our health and safety. But we’ve been left no choice. Millions are infected and nearly 90,000 have died, so it’s beyond urgent that action is taken to protect workers who risk their lives daily to respond to this public health emergency. If the Trump administration refuses to act, we must compel them to.”

Last month, the AFL-CIO sent a letter to the nation’s labor secretary asking for OSHA to issue formal workplace standards. But the secretary declined to honor the request, replying that a mandatory standard addressing risks associated with the virus is not necessary.
The lawsuit also notes that OSHA’s current personal protective equipment (PPE) standard, which includes guidance on masks and eye covers, is not mandatory. Employers have the discretion to ignore the guidance and are not required to supply PPE to employees.

The Hill reported that unions have been calling for OSHA to issue emergency standards since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. The AFL-CIO and 23 other national unions petitioned OSHA on March 6. National Nurses United petitioned the administration two days earlier.

April 2020 PA Jobs Update

Pennsylvania’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 15.1% in April 2020, up 9.3% from 5.8% in March, its highest level and largest month-to-month increase on record in the seasonally adjusted series (dating back to 1976). Over the month, unemployment rolls increased by nearly 600,000 individuals, with total unemployment rising to 975,000. This and the other changes to data provided in this update reflect the effects of the coronavirus pandemic (please see the **footnote). Additionally, similar to national April 2020 jobs data, estimates in the household survey for both unemployment and employment (see *footnote) were affected to varying degrees by misclassification from respondents (i.e. workers who should have been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff).

Over the last two months, the unemployment rate is up 10.4% from its level of 4.7% in February 2020, with total unemployment growing by 666,000 individuals from a total of 309,000 individuals in February 2020. For context, the unemployment rate had declined 0.7% over both of Governor Wolf’s terms as of February 2020, with total unemployment down by 35,408. State unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 975,740
  • Change Over Month –   UP   596,250
  • Change Over 2 Months –   UP   666,712
  • Change Over Year –    UP  708,710
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP   631,304
  • Rate Change Over Month –   UP   9.3%
  • Rate Change Over 2 Months –    UP  10.4%
  • Rate Change Over Year –    UP  11.0%
  • Rate Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP    9.7%

As indicated above, total unemployment’s rounded percentage of the labor force, or unemployment rate, increased significantly 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. From March to April 2020, PA’s labor force decreased by 91,400 individuals (the largest month-to-month decrease on record), a combination of total employment* down by 687,650 and unemployment up by 596,250 as noted above.

Over the last two months, PA’s labor force has shrunk by 106,903 individuals (unemployment +666,712 & employment -773,615) from its record high of 6,558,419 in February 2020. For context, PA’s labor force had grown by 159,267 individuals (unemployment -35,408 & employment +194,675) over both of Governor Wolf’s terms as of February 2020. State labor force statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Labor Force – 6,451,516
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   91,400
  • Change Over 2 Months –    DOWN  106,903
  • Change Over Year –    UP   2,321
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   UP   52,364

PA Non-farm* job rolls fell by 1.024 million in April 2020, the largest month-to-month decrease on record, bringing total non-farm employment to its lowest level in the seasonally adjusted series (dates back to 1990). Over the last two months, non-farm job rolls have declined by 1.095 million (please see the attached spreadsheet for comparison to other states), from a record high of 6,109,600 in February 2020. For context, non-farm employment had grown by 295,700 over both of Governor Wolf’s terms as of February 2020. State non-farm employment statistics for the month are as follows: 

  • Total Non-Farm Employment – 5,014,200
  • Change Over Month –   DOWN   1,024,100
  • Change Over 2 Months –    DOWN  1,095,400
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   1,044,000
  • Change Over Gov. Wolf to Date –   DOWN    799,700

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.
**Survey periods for data are as of the first half of the month, meaning additional impacts incurred beyond this time are not captured for the month.