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Pa.'s 'complicated' jobs recovery from COVID crash

Plus, local Dems pick candidate for Zabel’s former seat.

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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Job numbers, chosen ones, chemical IDs, no candidates, doctor stop, and Penn State to slash student newspaper funding. Thanks for checking in. 

Three years after Pennsylvania's employment rate plummeted as the pandemic shut down much of the economy, the state has recovered the 1.1 million jobs it lost.

The Inquirer reports Pennsylvania's recovery was slower than in much of the country, primarily because there weren't enough people to fill available jobs. That issue persists to this day.

Read The Inquirer's full report: Pa. has finally recovered all the jobs it lost during the pandemic, but serious challenges remain

THE CONTEXT: Experts have sounded the alarm about the state's shrinking labor force for years.

A December analysis by the Independent Fiscal Office found that workforce participation fell across the board post-pandemic, but was particularly steep among people younger than 35.

One expert told The Inquirer the state could do more to encourage workers to move to the state, including by reevaluating "burdensome" certification requirements. Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro has said expanding the workforce is a top priority, which is why he signed an executive order eliminating college degree requirements for some state government jobs. 

Failure to grow the state's workforce could threaten Pennsylvania's budget surplus.


"[The] citizens of Schuylkill County and the government need to remove the cloud that hangs over the county."

—Schuylkill County Republican Committee Chair Howard Merrick urging state lawmakers to resume a stalled impeachment investigation into Commissioner George F. Halcovage Jr., who's accused of misconduct
» UNEQUAL ELECTIONS: Join us and a panel of election experts on Thursday, March 30 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free discussion on unequal voting policies in the state, how they impact voters, and possible solutions. Register for the event here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
» A complete guide to the Pa. Supreme Court candidates

» Why independents can't vote in Pa. primaries (Spotlight PA archives)

» How unequal policies disenfranchised Pa. voters in 2022

» Register to vote in the May 16 primary here; deadline May 1

» Request your mail ballot for the May 16 primary; deadline May 9

Support Spotlight PA's public-service election and voting coverage now.
Spotlight PA's Sarah Hughes reports spring has begun in Harrisburg. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.
A flower bed blooms under a large tree.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SPECIAL PICKS: Delaware County Democrats have picked Heather Boyd as their candidate to replace former Democratic state Rep. Mike Zabel, who resigned after multiple people accused him of sexual harassment. Boyd is a former teacher and political staffer. She'll face Republican Katie Ford, an Army veteran and special education therapist, in a special election for the Democrat-favoring seat.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.WATER WATCH: The chemical spill imperiling Philly's drinking water this week included ethyl acrylate (a possible carcinogen), methyl methacrylate (not considered a carcinogen), and butyl acrylate, which can cause respiratory issues and eye or skin irritation. The long-term effects of ingestion are unknown. The Inquirer also reports the spill isn't the first mishap at the Trinseo plant in Bucks County

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.MORE WITH LESS: Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has lost 700 staffers due to budget cuts since the early 2000s. Gov. Josh Shapiro's budget plan includes a 9% hike in funding for the agency, but Acting Secretary Richard Negrin isn't asking the legislature to restore those jobs. StateImpact reports he's looking to streamline processes and upgrade tech to do more with less.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.ZERO CHOICES: What happens when no one runs in a local election? LNP (paywall) reports Lancaster County has several municipalities and school boards with open spots on the ballot, including Terre Hill Borough where three of seven council seats have no one yet stepping up to claim them. Existing officials would fill the seats, but one observer warns that can foster cronyism or an uneven partisan playing field.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.FBI BLOCK: Pennsylvania's laws around interstate licensing compacts don't meet FBI privacy standards, and that's preventing more Pennsylvania doctors from providing in-demand telehealth services in other states. The Inquirer (paywall) reports a bill introduced in the U.S. House in January could solve the issue.

ON THE RADIO: Hear Spotlight PA's Danielle Ohl and Brittany Heiler of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism tell WESA about their reporting on the human costs of Pennsylvania's broken legal competency system.

PAPER CUT: Penn State is looking to cut funding for its student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, by more than 50%, Editor-in-Chief Megan Swift writes. The paper says it's appealing.

HALF-STAFF: Gov. Josh Shapiro on Monday ordered all commonwealth flags at half-staff to honor the victims of Friday's explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company chocolate plant in West Reading.  

ON BROADWAY: James Ijames' Pulitzer-winning Hamlet riff, Fat Ham, is headed to Broadway, and the Philadelphia theater where it started will coproduce. The Wilma told The Inquirer (paywall) it's a Philly first.

FACT FAIL: WESA's Chris Potter explains how Twitter tried and failed to fact-check a conspiracy theory about a John Fetterman body double. 

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Synecdoche

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan D., Julie K., Don H., Jon W., Susan N.-Z., Starr B., Dianne K., Barbara F., Craig W., Dennis M., Bill S., Wendy A., Kim C., Dan A., Wendell S., Sarah B., William Z., and Tom M.
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